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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Dates not set for student drug testing hearings

Board president said first reading of proposed policy could be second November meeting


Valdez Star photo

Open wide! Lee Revis (left) takes the saliva-based drug test that Jim Nygaard, (right) the superintendent of Valdez City Schools, is proposing to give to all students that participate in activities in grades six through 12.

The board of education did not set a date for public hearings or a firm time for a first reading of the proposed drug testing policy that has been proposed by the superintendent.

"We're going to aim for the second meeting in November," Joe Prax, the board's newly elected president said after Monday night's meeting.

The policy before the board would test all students participating in extracurricular activities at Gilson Middle School and Valdez High School.

The saliva-based test is used to detect the presence of amphetamines, meth, cocaine, opiates, PCP and marijuana.

It is proposed that five to eight students per week undergo testing at a cost of $65 to $100 per week.

The policy was one of the last items on the board's agenda and was listed under board business and future agenda items.

Little was discussed about the policy during the meeting and the actual date for a first reading of the policy was unclear.

The board had previously canceled its previously scheduled Oct. 27 meeting, with the caveat a special meeting may be called to address issues with the district's audit.

Several of the board's members also indicated they will not be present for the board's first meeting in November, including Bill Comer, who was sworn in as a board member at the beginning of the meeting.

Bill Connell and Darryl Verfaillie were also sworn into office Monday night.

Superintendent Jim Nygaard discussed the issue earlier in the day.

He said he will ask the board for a formal motion to move ahead with a formal first reading of the policy in early November.

"Lee (Revis) has opted to do a public test of this drug saliva collection system," he said.

The testing process, which occurred after school Monday at Valdez High School in the office of Lea Cockerham, activities coordinator.

The discussion is posted on Youtube

It took over three minutes of rubbing the test stick in the mouth before enough saliva was collected and additional time for the test to actually show results.

"It tests as the saliva draws to the top," he explained during the test.

During the collection process, Nygaard talked about the proposal.

Valdez Star photo

New school board members, (left to right) Bill Connell, Bill Comer and Darryl Verfaillie, were sworn in as school board members Monday night by Allie Hendrickson, the deputy city clerk. The new board will be tasked with approving or panning the drug testing policy.

He said tests that come back positive – what he calls non-negatives – require the collection of additional saliva out of a "Dixie cup type" collection cup that would then be sent to a lab for further testing. It would also require the student or parent to disclose medications the student may be taking that could cause the test to show the presence of illicit drugs.

"In my case - because of sensitivity - I would call it a non-negative," he said about student tests that come back positive for the possible presence of illegal drugs.

The proposal also includes additions to the school's student handbook and current policies.

The policies and information on the revised policy and current drug testing contract for students are posted on the district's website on the board of education page.

Last Friday, the district's website,, lost it direct link to the web and users connecting to the district website outside of edline were directed to a non-valid website. The issue was rectified Monday.


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