Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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November 18, 2012

District looking into random drug tests for some students

MWISD developing testing policy for students in extracurricular activities

By LIBBY CLUETT

Mineral Wells ISD trustees gave the district’s School Health Advisory Committee the green light to further develop a student drug testing policy to potentially implement in the next school year.

Lead Nurse and SHAC Chair Wanda Voelcker informed trustees that committee members visited with the police chief and drug task force and believe that adopting a policy to randomly test students involved in extracurricular activities might help deter some students from using drugs.

She presented some statistics that indicate a rise in the number of drug- and alcohol-related issues sending students into the district’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program.

The SHAC is currently looking at drafting a policy in the spring and Voelcker told the board Tuesday, “We want your blessing to proceed.”

“There have been several conversations since I got here for the need to help our kids stay off drugs,” MWISD Superintendent Gail Haterius told the Index Friday.

She said SHAC did some preliminary and secondary research before presenting to the board to ask if they should move forward on this.

Keller ISD is currently serving as a model for the district’s policy research, Voelcker informed the board.

“We’re looking at it as a deterrent to help kids stay off drugs,” Haterius said, adding that Keller ISD’s program has deterred students from drugs.

Haterius said they are looking at contracting a third party to not only collect the samples, but to randomly select students, most likely with a computer.

She said they are looking at a nine-panel test, which includes substances like marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepine and some prescription drugs, according to a private drug screening company, where the test costs around $40 for the collection and lab fee.

“If a child fails it one time, they would be on [the list for testing again] the next time,” Haterius said, adding, “In that regard it would not be random.”

But Haterius said students who test positive can go through a counseling program.

“It’s very much to help, not be punitive,” she said.

Voelcker told trustees that, if intervention is needed, SHAC will receive assistance from Addiction Recovery Ministries. She said, though the purpose of the program is about “prevention versus intervention.”

Initially, those subject to controlled-substance screenings would include Mineral Wells Junior High or Mineral Wells High School students engaged in “any extracurricular activity,” Haterius said, “or if they park a vehicle on school property.”

In addition, she said SHAC is looking at allowing parents to opt in if their child doesn’t fall into any of the categories.

Voelcker told trustees the purpose of the policy is not only to deter student from using drugs, but it’s also health related, to “prevent illness, injury or harm.”

In the spring the committee will conduct meetings to survey students and the public. At these meetings, they will also answer questions.

Then the MWISD school board will approve the policy next spring. However, the drug testing program would not begin until the start of next school year in August.

“If it gives one student a reason to stay in sports or choir then I agree,” said Vice President Scott Aaron.

The board approved SHAC moving forward on the drug-testing policy.

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