The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Drug testing policy at schools to be reviewed by panel

Superintendent says current rules are harsh and need a second look

 


Drug testing of students attending Valdez City Schools is not a dead issue.

District superintendent Jim Nygaard is hoping to hold a panel discussion on the district's existing drug testing policy.

"The best I could hope for would be a community meeting next week," Nygaard told the board of education Monday night during its regular meeting.

Last December, the board of education indefinitely postponed a proposal Nygaard backed that called for randomly testing five percent of the student body in grades 6-12 that participate in school activities.

The proposal proved to be unpopular in the community and Nygaard asked the board to vote down the proposal, stating that the district had failed to make its case that the policy was needed. Instead, the board voted to postpone it without setting a firm timeline to bring it back to the table.

"There were a lot of questions that were raised" Nygaard said, and it left a lot of people scratching their heads.

The district's current policy, passed ten years ago, has left Nygaard scratching his head.

BP 5131.6 (c), the board policy regarding drug testing and policies related to student abuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, known by the acronym TAD, needs reviewing according to Nygaard.

He said at a December meeting that the policy is harsh and has implied it should be revised.

The policy had not been enforced in recent years and a number of school personnel – and parents of district students – were unaware a drug testing policy was already in place.

The policy calls for school staff undergo training every two years to recognize possible symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse by students and how to recommend those suspected of abuse be tested. It also has strict disciplinary actions.

"Implementation of this policy shall be based on individualized reasonable suspicion. In addition, all procedures described in this policy will be conducted in a confidential manner, demonstrating respect for the students and their families," the policy says.

It says students can be referred for testing if "the student's symptoms and behavior patterns indicate the student may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

It also allows for testing depending on the "prevalence and seriousness of the problem as determined by the administrator or designee."

The policy calls for students that are referred for testing be transported by parents or the district to a testing facility within four hours of the assessment.

"If the student or parent/guardian refuses to submit to a non-invasive drug test the administrator or designee will proceed to the disciplinary phase," the policy says.

Students are allowed to continue attending school until test results confirm the presence of banned substances.

The disciplinary actions are reprinted below. The full text of the policy can be found on the district's website on the board of education page.

1. a first offense for use, possession or refusal will result in a five (5) days out-of-school suspension.

2. the School District will report violations of this policy to appropriate law enforcement officials

3. the suspension will be reduced to three (3) days if the student participates in a substance use assessment at a state-certified counseling center. The assessment must be scheduled within three (3) days of disciplinary action. The administrator or designee must receive verification of the scheduled assessment from the certified counselor before a student is allowed to re-enter school.

Valdez Star photo

Late last month, Jim Nygaard, superintendent of Valdez City Schools, urged the board of education to vote against passing a new random drug testing policy for students in activities that he had presented to the board and previously supported.

4. The administrator or designee must receive confirmation that the student is following the treatment recommendations. Failure to strictly follow the treatment recommendations will result in two (2) additional days of suspension to be immediately implemented. NOTE: The School District will not be informed of what the recommendations are, just if they are being followed or not.

5. parent/guardian and student must confer with the administrator or designee prior to readmission to school. Readmission and continued attendance is dependent on the adherence to the sanctions and treatment recommendations. Honesty Clause:

If students honestly report their substance use at the time of the interview with the administrator or designee, and it is their first offense, the students will be allowed to earn full credit, during the suspension period after the administrator or designee confers with the parents. All other aspects of this policy shall be followed.

 

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