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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Drug testing policy up for public scrutiny

Old rules on the books revisited after random test policy shelved


A date has been set for officials and the public to review the school district's current drug testing policy.

This Thursday, a panel organized by Jim Nygaard, superintendent of Valdez City Schools, will convene to take a closer look at the districts 10-year old policy.

The move comes in the weeks after the board of education elected to postpone voting on a controversial random drug testing policy that had been proposed – and then later rejected – by Nygaard.

During public hearings on Nygaard's proposed policy, a number of speakers who opposed the push to randomly test students participating in school activities suggested the district look towards enforcing its existing policy.

Blowing the dust off of that policy revealed harsh consequences. In fact, policy BP 5131.6 (a) came as a shock to some.

It contains a provision to train school staff to spot signs of possible drug abuse amongst the student body and calls for students suspected of drug use be tested at an approved facility. Refusal by the student or parents to comply results in an automatic suspension.

Training for school staff in the methods spelled out in the policy became unavailable a few years back and the policy has not been enforced for several years according to school administration.

Nygaard thinks it needs closer scrutiny before the district moves forward to enforce it as it is written.

The consequences spelled out for students that test positive for illegal or banned substances are draconian – a first offense for use, possession or refusal to test results in a five day out-of-school suspension and calls for the district to "report violations of this policy to appropriate law enforcement officials."

The suspension can be reduced to three days if the student undergoes a substance use assessment at a state-certified counseling center within three days. Failure to follow through with treatment recommendations will earn student that have failed drug tests another two days of suspension.

It also requires parents to divulge confidential information to the school district regarding the drug testing. Results of drug abuse treatment remain confidential – as long as the district is notified that the student under treatment is complying with rehabilitation requirements.

Disciplinary measures for a second offence are harsher. The policy says "a second offense for use, possession or refusal will result in a ten (10) days out-of-school suspension. Half credit will be given for the missed coursework."

Superintendent Jim Nygaard

Three-time offenders can be expelled from school.

"A third offense or above for use, possession or refusal will result in a recommendation to the Valdez School Board for expulsion for the remainder of the semester," the policy says "no matter when the violation occurs during that semester. Expulsion results in total loss of credit for the semester."

Officials on the panel by Nygaard to review the policy with the public include the district's resource officer, Robin Baczuk, activities director Lea Cockerham and school principals Melissa Reese, Rod Morrison and Rod Schug.

The meeting will take place this Thursday, January 22 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Valdez High School library.


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