LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - A major overhaul changes who is tested in Limestone County schools.
For years, athletes grades 9-12 were the only ones subject to random testing, and if selected, they chose when they would take it.
"We felt like that was missing the mark, the it was very ineffective," said Rusty Bates, the district's safety, athletics, and transportation director.
They would only test about 100 students a year, and would receive little to no positive results. Bates says it would be naive to accept that as a true representation.
"It'd be foolish to not think drugs are apparent in some of our schools, in all of our schools," said Bates.
As of January 2016, the program is expanded to include:
- Seventh and eighth graders
- All student participants in any extracurricular activities (band, chess club, etc.)
- All students who drive to school and apply for a parking permit
The overhaul also tests students on campus instead of at a third-party location.
The random, and more inclusive, drug testing is expected to be a deterrent.
"When peer pressure strikes down, I want them to use us as an out for saying 'Hey I'm not going to do this," said Bates.
Two samples are tested and if a student tests positive, the parents are alerted. In some cases, Bates says, parents supply proof that the student is taking a prescription drug, in which case the test results are discarded.
If there is no medical proof of required/recommended/prescribed drug use, instead of suspending or expelling the student, they suspend their extracurricular participation for 365 days. After the year, they are tested again and, if clean, can gain reentry into their activities.
"The only suspension is only through athletics, clubs, band, and of course driving," explained Bates.
During the month of January, the district tested 137 students. They plan to test about the same number of drivers/athletes/club members every month, with an end goal of testing approximately 3,000 students for the year.
The district is also looking into testing faculty and staff. Currently, the only district workers tested are bus drivers; their drug testing is conducted through a Department of Transportation program.
by Shevaun Bryan
January 26, 2016