Tuesday, December 5, 2023

CISD Considering Random Drug Testing Pilot Program

On June 4, Carroll School Board members will discuss first reading of a policy to begin a random drug testing program for students in grades 9-12. The Board and Administration have been studying the possibility of a drug testing program for the past several years and if implemented, would model the local policy after other school drug testing programs across the state.

A survey link was sent to parents, staff and student email addresses to collect feedback for Board consideration. More than 2,000 people had participated in the survey in the first 24 hours. The deadline is just before midnight on June 15. Trustees won’t make a final decision on a policy until after the survey closes. Respondents are able to alter their responses up until the survey closes June 15.

Although no decisions have been made, school officials are expected to recommend a pilot program that tests 10-40 percent of students in grades 9-12 who are participating in extracurricular programs beginning as early as this fall. School officials cannot include the entire student population because of federal case law, but parents of students who do not participate in extracurricular activities could request that their child be added to the pool of randomly selected students. All parents and students subject to the potential drug testing program would attend informational meetings and sign permission forms to participate. Under the proposed pilot program, parental agreement would be mandatory for extracurricular student participation.

Some districts require students who apply for an on-campus parking permit to be part of the random group of students tested. CISD is surveying respondents about adding student drivers to the pilot program. School officials say random drug testing can help ensure the health and safety of others when students are driving on campus and/or competing against other students.

Yet to be determined is exactly how many students will be tested and how often, as well as whether or not the district will use urine or hair follicle testing. Administrators are recommending monthly testing of a randomly selected group of students involved in athletics, fine arts, dance, cheerleading and other school-sponsored and/or school-owned clubs where students compete against other students. The purpose of the program is also to prevent injury, illness, and harm resulting from the use of illegal and performance-enhancing drugs or alcohol. It is estimated the pool of students who fall into those categories would be about 2,300 at the high school and senior high level.

The policy under consideration June 4 would give parents/students five days after a positive drug test to share information about medication or another medical explanation for a positive result. An initial positive test would be confirmed by a second test of the same specimen before being reported as positive. Upon receiving results of a positive test, the district would schedule a confidential meeting with the student, the student’s parents and the coach or sponsor of the extracurricular activity to review the test results and discuss consequences.

School administrators say their goal is to deter drug use among high school students and to provide help to those families who have a student who tests positive. Based on the policy being proposed, any student who has a confirmed positive result after being randomly selected for testing, would be required to participate in the next three testing rounds in addition to sitting out of extracurricular activities for a brief period and attending a drug/alcohol counseling program. Further failed tests would result in additional suspension periods from extracurricular participation. School officials say parents/students could choose from a list of free and/or paid counseling programs or select their own program. Confidential drug test results would not be released to treatment centers without written consent of parents.

The cost of the random drug testing program depends on the type of testing, the number of students tested and the company chosen to perform the tests. School officials say they reviewed policies in Grapevine-Colleyville, Keller, Frisco and McKinney. The recommendation is for a testing budget of $25,000 to $50,000.

“It’s not as expensive as one might think, and our goal is to give students a reason to say no and to provide resources and counseling to families with a student who tests positive,” said Janet McDade, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services. “The district would put out an RFP (request for proposals) from professional testing labs and consider price, reputation, testing logistics and confidentiality when selecting a company.”

Officials say most of the districts who participate in random drug testing programs test for alcohol, performance-enhancing substances including anabolic steroids, marijuana, cocaine, methaqualone, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine (PCP), methadone barbiturates, propoxyphene, amphetamines and opiates. Not every drug is tested on every subject during the random testing periods. Students who are randomly selected do not get advanced notice but are escorted under adult supervision by a school employee of the same gender to a testing site that includes a closed restroom stall for privacy. The student simply provides a simple urine sample. Of course, the district could decide to use hair follicles instead depending on survey results and the recommendation of the testing company.

CISD Administrators have been working with the Policy Services Division of the Texas Association of School Boards to develop local policy wording. Trustees will consider the survey results and policy recommendations in June. Policies are typically adopted on two readings.