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Orange schools pass random drug testing

Students who participate in extracurricular activities in Orange County schools next year will be subject to random drug testing.

The School Board Monday passed, by a 4–1 vote, a measure that would require testing for “Students Involved with Competitive Extracurricular Activities.”

The regulation was developed by a committee of parents, students, school staff and community members in response to the findings of the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey completed earlier this year.

Under the new program, 10 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 who are involved in competitive extra-curricular activities will be randomly selected to complete testing for drug and alcohol use.

The vote came after a public comment period in which four speakers split opinions, with two in favor of the policy and two against. Betty Winter, who is running unopposed for the District 4 School Board seat being vacated by former School Board Chairman Jerry Bledsoe, said she supported the measure, noting that the school system has a responsibility to prepare students for the real world and teach them accountability for their actions.

Kim Hoosier, a parent whose two boys attend Orange County schools, spoke against it, questioning the reliability of the survey. Hoosier said some students may have answered yes to questions just to impress their friends.

“I know that adolescents have a tendency to answer the way they think they should, rather than truthfully,” she said.

Hoosier also questioned the program’s cost, constitutionality, and whether being drug tested might prove traumatizing for younger students, creating a barrier to participating in activities.

Parent Mary Schlegel also spoke against the proposal, noting that, in terms of the schools’ existing anti-drug regulation, it seemed to be “discriminating against a group of children in the schools.”

Caroline Marrs, also a parent, supported the rule.

“I think this is a societal problem,” she said, “and a huge problem in our school system.”

She commended the School Board for “taking a stance on this.”

While some on the board opposed the plan, others were united in support for the new regulation.

“If we can catch a few kids early on,” Board member Sheri Page said, “change their course, and give them the help they need, then I will consider it a good day.”

Bledsoe felt that the new policy did not contradict the current policy, but enhanced it by representing “a higher standard” for student athletes and other student role models.

Board member Lou Thompson said that when he discussed the proposal with his 14-year-old daughter, who will attend Orange County High School next year, she said she supported it, saw the societal need involved and also felt that students had been very honest in responding to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Board Chairwoman Judy Carter supported the measure as well. “Society has a problem,” she stated. “I can only do so much for society, but as a school board member, I can do something to help our students.”

Dan McFarland:

dmcfarland@freelancestar.com

 

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