HOWELL STUDENTS MAY FACE DRUG TEST
High school and middle school students in the Francis Howell School District could be tested for drug use next school year.
The district board voted Thursday night to request proposals for a mandatory, random drug testing policy and to set three meetings to discuss it with district parents.
If the policy is approved, it would affect all students who are involved in extracurricular activities and those who have parking passes. Middle school students could participate in a voluntary program if their parents agreed.
The program would require students and parents to agree to the testing program before a student would be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities or receive a parking pass.
The program still would have to receive final approval from the board, probably in June, administrators said.
Jim Joyce, a spokesman for the district, who presented the program, said it would be separate from the district's discipline policies. It is not intended to punish students, he said; rather, it is intended to help them stop using drugs.
The cost is estimated at $000 for the high school and $00 at the middle school level. Joyce said another $000 or so might be required for administration, bringing the total cost to about $000. Some grant money may be available, perhaps by 2007-2008.
At the three high schools, students would be chosen at random each week to submit to a urine test. The test would be conducted in a secure bathroom at the nurse's station, Joyce said, and the testing company would be at the school to receive the sample.
The program would test for controlled substances including marijuana, opiates, cocaine, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, ecstasy and anabolic steroids.
If a student tested positive, he or she would be removed from extracurricular activities and have his or her parking pass revoked for 10 school days and would be required to attend counseling for a minimum of four weeks through Bridgeway Counseling Services. The counseling would be provided free of charge unless the students' families chose other counseling services, Joyce said. Students would be retested at the end of the 10 days and after completing counseling.
Students who refused to take the test, attempted to tamper with it or failed to complete counseling would be removed from activities for 90 school days and undergo a more intense counseling program, Joyce said.
Students who tested positive for drugs a second time in their high school careers would be removed from activities and have their parking passes revoked for 90 days. They would have to complete six to eight weeks of counseling.
A third positive test would result in a student's being removed from activities and having his or her parking pass revoked permanently. Joyce said the district could use an appeal process if a student completed counseling and wanted to rejoin activities after a third offense.
The middle school program would be voluntary. Parents could request their students be tested, and counseling would be encouraged for students who tested positive.
Joyce presented numbers from a district survey from 2004-2005 that said 54.7 percent of students thought that marijuana could easily be obtained, that 45.6 percent said at least one of their best friends had used marijuana in the past 12 months and that 20.7 percent said one of their friends had used a drug other than marijuana
Drug testing of students has been a hot topic in the past school year. The Fort Zumwalt District began randomly testing athletes through a voluntary program this school year. That program renewed one the district had ended a few years earlier in a period of budget cuts, but the new program added tests for performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids.
Christian Brothers College high school in Town and Country made headlines when administrators proposed testing all students' hair follicles for drugs. Marquette Catholic High School in Alton will begin mandatory drug testing of students in the 2007-08 school year.
Marquette's policy is to test all students at the beginning of each school year and to test about a quarter of them randomly throughout the year. Test results will be confidential. Students who test positive will have an opportunity to clean up, but they will be asked to leave if they cannot.
The Francis Howell board approved meeting dates of June 6, 7 and 8 to discuss the proposal with parents, tentatively at 7 p.m. One meeting will be held at each of the three high schools. The board did not set which building would host a meeting on which night.