The regulations associated with the policy indicate that all students involved in extracurricular activities at Lander schools will be tested before their activity’s season begins.
Then, during the activity’s season, 25 percent of participants will be randomly tested, with the timing and frequency of the tests determined by the drug program administrator, the regulations state.
Outside of the activity’s season, the regulations say 10 percent of students involved will undergo random testing every month.
Board chair Jared Kail said he proposed the new policy because “I see some very dangerous trends around our district” related to substance abuse, including a “significant increase” in drug violations among students, as well as a change in the kinds of drug “delivery mechanisms” students use – like vape pens, edibles, and pills – that are “nearly undetectable” to school officials.
The drug testing policy “is part of my solution” to the latter problem, Kail said, because it “doesn’t depend on actively observing someone doing drugs.”
The new policy also gives students a reason to turn down any drugs that might be offered to them, he added, and “it gives parents tools and information” that they “wouldn’t normally get.”
“It helps (develop) a culture of drug-free activity in our district, and we really need to push that,” Kail said. “This is not a waste of money – it aligns directly with our mission, vision, and values, and it directly helps kids succeed in the district.”
He noted that the drug testing policy is only “a piece of a puzzle, not the end goal.”
“(At our) next meeting we’re going to be discussing other ways that we can prevent drug use – not just the testing,” Kail said. “We cannot sit by idly without doing something.”
After Kail made his comments, Trustee Taylor Jacobs asked how many other districts in the state have similar policies.
Superintendent Mike Harris said approximately nine of the state’s 48 districts currently have drug testing policies in place.
Trustee Kathy Hitt asked how many of those districts administer drugs tests to middle school students.
Harris wasn’t sure about every district, but he knew of two that test middle schoolers and two that don’t.
Drug tests for middle schoolers should be administered using saliva as opposed to urine, Hitt said.
She also suggested that the new policy should be implemented in the 2024-2025 school year so staff has time to develop the program before administering it.
Trustee Aileen Brew agreed with Hitt about the timing.
“We need time to make sure (we) have the best possible program put together that addresses all the things that we’ve talked about,” Brew said. “Do we have community buy in? Will our administrators have time to educate (the) students? Can we create good community coalitions that can address these issues as well?”
Kail said decisions about timing would be left to school administrators, though his preference would be to aim for implementing the new policy during the spring semester of the 2023-2024 school year.
“Time is of the essence, in my opinion,” he said.
Anne Baker, who serves as the student liaison to the board, asked how much money the drug testing program would cost.
Kail offered her the “back-of-the-envelope” estimate of $65,000 for testing alone, and Hitt noted that “no money would be taken from teacher salaries to pay for this.”
After hearing public comments from four individuals, all of whom criticized the drug testing proposal, the board approved two amendments to the new policy.
The first amendment deleted the penalty section of the policy regulation and inserted a reference to the district code of conduct in the student handbook instead.
The board also directed staff to “enhance” the district code of conduct to emphasize drug prevention and counseling, including provisions for delays due to a lack of provider availability.
The second amendment provides an opportunity for parents or guardians to place their students in the random drug testing pool even if they aren’t involved in extracurricular activities.
Kail said the change will allow “all kids” to have access to the “tools of deterrence” the pool offers.
“We don’t want to deny that to a kid just because they (aren’t) in an extracurricular activity,” he said.
Hitt said she would like to see all of the amendments incorporated into an updated policy document before voting, but Kail and others didn’t think the modifications were “drastic” enough to require tabling the decision until a future meeting.
The final vote on the drug testing policy was 4-2, with Hitt and Brew voting “no.”
For more information call Fremont County School District 1 at 332-4711.