Archive for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Drug testing proposal likely to resurface

September 21, 2006

Recent allegations of drug usage at Baldwin High School have resurfaced the possibility of drug testing participants in extracurricular activities at the school.

There is an investigation at BHS about several students taking prescription drugs, which has sparked the drug testing chatter once again.

"I have had a couple parents mention it to me, but as a school, we haven't brought up the topic again," Baldwin Activities Director Gary Stevanus said.

BHS teacher and coach Kit Harris said the topic has been discussed more in the last week, but opinions still differ.

"It has been brought up over the last year and more so recently," Harris said. "Several staff, parents and even kids have mentioned it of late. I think there are a lot of people who support it. I know there are those who are against it, and quite adamantly. But I know for a fact that many speak in support of it, as well."

In May 2005, Harris and Stevanus brought a drug-testing proposal to the Baldwin School Board. It was discussed at several meetings, but then no one knows what happened to the idea.

"The school board seemed unsure on the proposal," Harris said. "I believe they were going to look into the issue more. But I'm unsure of the final decision or even if there was a final decision."

School Board Member Ande Parks said he wasn't in favor of the testing and wasn't quite sure what happened to the proposal.

"My feeling at the time was that this was not the type of business I wanted in our district," Parks said of drug testing. "We had a proposal brought to us, but not a policy. Then, that got put aside with the changing of board members. I am sure this will come up now that we have concrete evidence that this is a problem now."

Harris hopes that the drug-testing proposal will once again be an item for the school board to consider.

"Perhaps it will come up again," Harris said. "With a drug issue again at the forefront of community interest, the drug-testing discussion likely will resurface at the school board level. I hope so."

Stevanus also hopes drug testing will be discussed by the board, even though he knows a policy won't completely deter drug usage.

"This has once again brought to the forefront that there looks to be a problem among our students," Stevanus said. "A drug testing policy is not going to get rid of it, but it maybe help reduce it."

He added that he isn't sure the drug tests would be able to find the substance that was allegedly being used at BHS. In the current case, a prescription drug for treatment of Attention Deficit Hyper Active was allegedly used.

"It depends on the timing," Stevanus said. "Different drugs are in your system for varying lengths of time, so it would all depend on the timing of the test compared to when the drug was ingested."

Baker University implemented a drug-testing policy one year ago for a few reasons.

"Our motive as a department was that we wanted to have drug-free sports," Baker Athletic Director Dan Harris said. "Many other institutions and universities have now gone to drug testing policies."

Baker has seen good results from the policy that tests 12 athletes per month. The names are chosen random by a computer from the testing company.

"It was well enforced last year," D. Harris said. "We've had no issues that have come up so far. It's doing the job it's intended to do."

K. Harris is still in favor of a policy at BHS for several reasons.

"Yes, I am, but like last time, I still want to look into it further," K. Harris said. "While I do not think it is the one and only solution, I think it can be helpful to our efforts. I think that at the very least it is slightly helpful, and at the very best it is tremendously helpful and even perhaps life-changing for some youngsters.

"I don't know what it will take to convince some people that, whether they want to believe it or not, there is a drug culture in Baldwin City," K. Harris said.

One of the main ways Harris wants to stop drug usage in Baldwin City is through the entire community, not just the school district.

"If we really care about these kids, then we will do all we can to help them avoid activities that lead to what can be a self-destructive social agenda," K. Harris said. "It has to be a community-wide effort.

"As for substance use among kids, I don't think schools alone can stop it," K. Harris said. "I don't think law enforcement alone can stop it and I think kids can even get around parental efforts, oftentimes. However, too many times parents fight the school and the police efforts on this issue. A combined and cooperative group effort is the first and most important step, in my opinion."

Parks said education and communication are two key issues to solving the problem.

"I believed during the discussions we had in 2005 about possible drug testing, and I believe now, that the best way to help our kids confront the temptation of drug use is to have a well-trained, caring, and involved staff working with kids and parents to do so," Parks said. "We will discuss a possible testing program, and maybe we can come up with a program that will serve our district well and supplement our staff's efforts, but I still think the battle is really won through education, communication and careful supervision."

K. Harris also hopes the community will work together to stop this problem from becoming larger.

"Schools care about kids, parents care about kids and law enforcement care about kids," K. Harris said. "We need to all keep that in mind before we bicker, point fingers and place blame. We all have that one element in common. We essentially all want the same thing: a safe, fun, positive and law-abiding community of good citizens and neighbors. I prefer to see us all focus our efforts to that common goal and see what the result can be."

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