Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

BHS drug testing is discussed

May 12, 2005

Drug testing at Baldwin High School became the major topic at the school board meeting Monday night.

BHS Trainer Gary Stevanus, teacher Kit Harris and teacher Heath Cooper, both also coaches at BHS, provided information and answered questions for the board.

"We definitely wanted this to be a well-thought through decision," Harris said. "The other thing we always wanted to accomplish from the beginning is this to be an open discussion to anybody and everybody this could possibly affect."

Stevanus briefed the board on cost and how the tests would be run. Stevanus said each test costs $26 this year and would be administered by, Sportsafe, an Ohio company. Stevanus said the testing would cost about $5,000 per year for 20 kids to be tested each month.

BHS would send Sportsafe a list of students, either listed by name or a number. Then company would choose 10 names every other week at random to be tested. A representative from Sportsafe would then come to collect the urine samples from the chosen students.

Stevanus said urine testing would be used because it is the most cost-effective. He said alcohol can be in the urine stream for 12 to 15 hours after consumed. He also said traces of marijuana can be shown in an occasional user for up to seven days, and up to 30 days in a chronic user.

"I think tonight's meeting was positive," Stevanus said. "The school board has many concerns, and we expected that. This is a complicated issue with many factors to consider. I think that they want as much information as they can possibly have before making a decision."

School board members asked questions to the BHS staff members, starting with why do drug testing now?

"I've always had a concern for drug use in teenagers," Harris said. "I've always considered doing drug testing and what it might entail."

Harris also said he has had many students talk to him about drug use at the high school, but he never knows what is true and what isn't.

"You hear names and you never really know if its factual," Harris said. "I don't follow kids around on the weekend, and I don't ever want to. I hear it enough to tell me there is something to it."

Stevanus said he hears many things in the training room, including some information he would rather not hear.

"The trainer's room is rumor central," Stevanus said. "The sad thing is, it's true. Some of the stories I hear are scary."

Cooper also said he hears a lot of talk about drug use in his classroom.

"I would say it is significantly higher at Baldwin than it was at the school I came from, which was sort of inner city and almost four times as large as Baldwin," Cooper said of drug talk among students. "That's why I got involved in this."

Cooper taught at Raytown (Mo.) High School last year.

Harris and Stevanus both said they talked to all of the coaches and sponsors at BHS, and they all are in favor of drug testing.

Another question was whether or not the drug testing would be a deterrent for students to not use drugs or alcohol.

"I'm afraid of a punitive program," School Board Member Allison Bauer said. "I don't know that I want to spend money on something that I don't know will prevent anything. We have the death penalty in our country and that doesn't deter murder."

Stevanus said that coaches or sponsors can be the deterrents for the students, and he used the cross country team as an example.

"The cross country kids don't drink pop," Stevanus said. "Coach Spielman doesn't want his athletes drinking caffeine, and those kids don't do it. They know they aren't supposed to, so they don't."

School Board Member Scott Lauridsen was curious to know how BHS will know if the drug testing is working, if implemented.

Harris had a simple answer for Lauridsen.

"I don't know that it ever can be," Harris said. "I guess it would be our feeling if this is well spent money and time. I am not sure that can scientifically be proven."

The consequences of a positive test by a student would follow the current drug and alcohol policy used by BHS.

"The problem with the consequences is we all have different thoughts on what we should do," Harris said. "We haven't really come to the same page there, so our answer was to stick with what the school currently has with its consequences. Then coaches can do what they want beyond that."

Bauer wanted to know how those consequences would affect a student. Harris expressed his personal feeling on how he might handle the situation.

"If a kid has a positive test, I would never want to say to that kid 'you are kicked off this team,' because now his peer group is potentially a lot worse," Harris said. "I want that kid around. I might tell him he can't represent the team in competition, but I want him to still be a part of this team."

After all of the questions were answered, School Board President Ed Schulte said they want to make sure everything has been answered before a decision is made.

"You've done some good background, but there are a lot of questions still to ask," Schulte said. "I just want to make sure we get everything nailed down before we put this in."

Lauridsen said if the board implements the policy, it can be removed if unsuccessful.

"It's not a decision that's irreversible," Lauridsen said. "If we try and it we don't feel like it's working or don't see any benefits, then we can stop doing it. It's not irreversible."

School Board Member Ande Parks also expressed his concerns about the testing.

"I am very uneasy about having an outside source come in and police our kids," Parks said. "I don't know if there is anything that can convince me to do this."

The board did not act on the proposal, but will review the policy and talk more about it at its next meeting. Lauridsen said community members need to express their opinion on the subject.

"I think you've got to publicize it and it's got to be in the press," Lauridsen said. "I think you've got to have a separate forum where they can come in. If you've got an opinion, you need to make sure the board knows about it. It almost requires a formal forum where people can come in and talk."

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