The Lander school board continued its discussion last month about a proposed drug testing policy for students involved in extracurricular activities.
The conversation has been ongoing since last year, when board chair Jared Kail “expressed his concern over the drug issue in schools,” according to minutes from a regular meeting in December.
The minutes say Kail asked then-superintendent Dave Barker to “prepare a policy for first reading for the January meeting that would allow or require students to be drug tested for extracurricular activities.”
Barker said he would “check with legal counsel to determine the legalities of doing this,” according to the minutes, which indicate that “other suggestions” came up during the meeting as well, including “adding preventive measures along with student and parental awareness steps.”
When the board considered the policy on first reading in January, Barker said he crafted it “mirroring the policy in place in another district” which “was accepted by the Wyoming Supreme Court,” according minutes from that meeting.
The minutes say Barker did not have “quotes on potential cost” at that time but that “funding would come from (the) general fund.”
“It was suggested looking at the number of students in trouble the past two to five years and how many were extracurricular participants,” the minutes state. “Board members wanted to know how many were expelled and involved in day reporting.”
The policy proposal came up again in March, when the board “held an in-depth discussion” on the topic, according to minutes from that meeting.
Items that were discussed, according to the minutes, included:
-“gaining perspective from school leadership teams”
-finding a way to assess “the level of the problem”
-finding data on how “random drug testing has worked” in other schools
-calculating costs for testing
-figuring out who would monitor and document the testing
-determining how to address false positive and false negative tests
-reviewing current policies to “make sure things are aligning”
-potentially setting “a percent (of students) that we would test each year”
-determining whether “we need a prevention coordinator”
-using the policy as an “opportunity to show students, staff and (the) community we care and this is a very serious issue”
Barker also shared information from other districts about “testing cost and number of students tested,” the minutes state, and he presented data showing that four of the 56 “stipulated agreements or expulsions” recorded in Lander schools over the past three years involved students in extracurricular activities.
“Board members agreed it would be beneficial to have a work session specific to discussing this,” the minutes state. “Board asked for (a) May 2 meeting to cover this.”
Minutes were not available for the May 2 work session, but the agenda for that meeting included the results of a survey that was sent out to students, staff, parents and coaches.
The survey indicated that almost all of the coaches surveyed (14 out of 15) would support drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities, as would the majority of parents (168 out of 292), staff (99 out of 137), and students (96 out of 184) surveyed.
The possible drug testing policy came up again on May 16, when the board had another “lengthy discussion” on the topic, according to minutes from that meeting.
“Top items” discussed, according to the minutes, included:
-establishing a community subcommittee
-moving forward with the policy to “show how serious we take this and get the community involved”
-improving the process for getting students back sooner after they test positive for drugs if they show they “are doing their part to work on the problem”
-proposing a unified intervention policy that defines drug testing and other interventions, the minutes state
In June, the board tabled the drug testing policy until their July meeting, when they again opened the item up for discussion and revisions.
One change that was proposed last month would allow guardians to place students in the random drug testing pool even if they aren’t involved in extracurricular activities.
The board asked for more information about the legality of that proposal.
They also talked about possibly making students who test positive for drugs ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities even if the situation is placed under review.
At the end of the discussion, the board asked for more information about:
-the costs that might be associated with the policy
-the prevalence of “false positive” drug tests
-the availability of drug counselors locally
-the results of local disciplinary cases
They also wondered whether the district should hire in-house counselor to support the drug testing policy, and they expressed a desire to collaborate with city and county officials to continue addressing local substance abuse issues.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled to take place Aug. 15.
For more information call Fremont County School District 1 at 332-4711.