Carbon High Principal Bruce Bean and District Security Manager Ken Labrum discuss the idea of implementing drug testing for students in extracurricular activities during the Carbon School District Board meeting last week.
Last spring two young men who went to Carbon High were busted for having controlled substances in their possession one day during their school lunch break. It happened downtown and they got in a good deal of trouble.
These students were not what many people picture as the type that might have trouble with the law, particularly with drugs. They were what many felt were "good kids" with no history of trouble and they got good grades. At least one of them was an athlete at the school, and had a good reputation.
When all the trouble was done and over with, Carbon High Principal Bruce Bean had one of the young men come into his office and interview him. What he said struck a chord with Bean.
"I asked him if we had been doing random tests on athletes for drugs if that would have made a difference and the kid told me 'Yes,'' said Bean during an interview in his office on Thursday morning. "He told me that it would have given him a good reason to say no."
Carbon High has a random drug testing policy for athletics, but it hasn't been used since around 1999. That very issue became the center of discussion at the Carbon School District Board meeting last
"There were some problems with the way it had to be performed," Bean told the board on that evening. "The technology that was available made it difficult and it wasn't as accurate."
Bean told the board that many schools in the state are now using random drug testing on students who participate in extracurricular activities. In many places it isn't just relative to athletes, but also to other activities like forensics and choir. Some of the schools doing testing are in Cache, Weber, Duchesne and Rich school districts.
Rich High School actually tests all students, but that is largely because it is a 1A school and almost everyone participates in some kind of extracurricular activity.
Bean told the board the he thinks the district would be best off to use an outside vendor for doing the testing. When the policy was in effect before it was done by school personnel, which at times became problematic, particularly when someone had to be with the person being testing in the restroom while they were providing a urine sample, to be sure the sample wasn't tainted or switched.
"Based on what we are thinking it would cost between $5,000-$6,000 per year," Bean told the board. "Ken Labrum (district security manager) and I have not found a school where they are doing it that it hasn't had a positive affect."
Bean said that he thought by what they had seen that such testing would probably be given to 10-15 percent of the students who were involved per month. He also said that confidentiality would be a very important part of any testing and results. He also said one of the keys would be that if tests came back positive it would result not as much in punitive measures, but in ways that would help students that need help.
Some of the board members had questions about how it could all be handled, considering drug policies that are already in place and how they would deal with the law. But as the discussion went on there became a difference between possession and being under the influence.
Beans said that just because a test might be positive that wouldn't mean a student would "have to be referred to court." The punitive part that would take place however, would be a suspension from the activity they are participating in and then follow up testing once they were allowed to resume participation in the activity.
"The testing would be involved with all sanctioned Utah High School Activities Association activities," said Bean. "This would also involve club sports as well. The key here is choice. Students choose to be in these activities, they are not required to do so."
Board President Wayne Woodward said that he thought it would be a good idea, but also added some things to what Bean had said.
"How we do this testing is important," he stated. "I favor a good deal of parental responsibility in this too."
Bean agreed and said in the interview on Thursday that he thought that was one of the most important things about doing such testing.
"Often parents don't realize their child has a problem," said Bean. "We sometimes get parents in my office who say their kids would never have this problem. We also have had those that we find out are doing drugs or alcohol along side their kids. Doing this with students that are involved in activities will help us to help parents to intercede with a kid who might have problems and no one knows it."
The horizon on drugs has also changed over the years. Drugs that get people high are not all that school administrators and the USHAA are concerning about. Performance enhancing drugs, substances that have made headlines with profession athletes, are also of a concern.
"In addition this also about safety," said Bean. "Other students have the right to know that students they may be competing with aren't under the influence."
A new policy is being formulated and is almost done. It follows basically a non-punitive approach, but instead works to have any student that is tested positive follow steps to get them out of the cycle of possible addiction or other problems.
"The impetus for this was my conversation with that student last year," said Bean. "But it also came from years of coaching and seeing the affects that such behavior had on students."
The board has asked Bean to come and advise them as the policy amendment progresses. He asked them in turn to see if they could find a way to finance such a testing program.
According to Bean the program would not go into effect this school year, but in 2013-14.