Wahkiakum School District Board briefly reviewed the nuts and bolts of a proposed Drug Testing Policy at its regular meeting February 22.
The policy directs Superintendent Bob Garrett to enact a drug testing program, with the goal that students “remain free from the effects of alcohol and/or controlled substances while at school and school events, in order to ensure their maximum learning and appropriate participation.”
The district would test students suspected of being under the influence to help parents recognize a student’s drug or alcohol problems.
School staff would receive training in recognizing signs of drug or alcohol use. Students exhibiting signs of substance use could be referred to administrators for testing.
“Parents want to believe their kids. They’ll have a hard time being in denial with a positive result,” Garrett said.
“After we lost the previous (random drug testing) case, we were deflated. People stopped referring kids to the office.”
Last Spring Garrett noticed, “We could be doing a better job of referring kids.” In the fall, students themselves identified problems with substance abuse and came to a board meeting with a request that resulted in the drug testing policy under consideration.
Under the policy proposed, the urine samples will be collected in an unobserved but controlled setting. Garrett said students would go into a bathroom in the office area alone to provide the sample. The cup used to collect the sample will give results within moments.
The cup monitors five drugs; positive results will be sent to a lab for confirmation. The lab is able to determine if students attempted to tamper with the sample.
When a student tests positive, the building principal will contact the parent as quickly as possible, and discipline will be imposed as per the Student Handbook. Garret said the school will advise parents if the student tested negative to let the parent know there has been a concern.
Students must pay for any recommended assessments and treatment, but they may qualify for treatment through Wahkiakum Health and Human services at no or low cost.
For a first offense, students face one day suspension with pre-assessment and follow through or two days if they have no pre-assessment ; for a second offense, five day suspension following formal assessment and follow through or suspension for the remainder of the semester or 30 days, whichever is longer. For third and subsequent offenses, long term suspension or expulsion.
The policy includes provisions for “shy bladder” or for students unable to produce a sample upon request. They may wait in the area for two hours and could be given 24-oz of water, as needed. Students could be referred to a physician to determine if there was a medical reason why the student could not provide a sample; otherwise, students would be treated as if the result was positive.
Garrett states that the school will continue to refer students with alcohol and drugs in their possession or drug paraphernalia in their possession to law enforcement as the Student Handbook dictates.
Wahkiakum Undersheriff Mark Howie said the sheriff’s department is interested in intervention for first time users.
“There’s a gray area if a kid is under the influence. We don’t want to come arrest them; we’re in favor of intervention.”
A student doesn’t ever have to give a sample, Garrett said. However, a student who refuses will receive disciplinary penalties as if they had tested positive.
In recent weeks, school staff already trained to identify students handled an incident in which a high school student was suspected of using.
The team also met with Wahkiakum Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Howell. Principal Dan Casler said the staff training was consistent with Howell’s approach and he was pleased with the way the situation with the student was handled.
Board member Michelle Budd said on-going training will be important to the team.
The policy could be in place for the fourth quarter, which starts April 13, Garrett said.
He plans to add details regarding the chain of custody for the urine sample with input from the district's attorney, Dan Bigelow, and return with a final proposal for the March board meeting.
Garrett said, "Once I have a final document, the board could adopt it and set a date for implementation."