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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Drug testing policy revision passed by school board

Students suspected of substance abuse at school face new rules


Valdez students suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at school will face new rules after the board of education passed a second reading of its newly crafted policy.

BP 5131.6 was quietly and unanimously passed by the board during its regular meeting Monday night. Board members Bill Connell and Alan Sorum were not present.

The changes in the board policy are also reflected in the administrative rules, AR 5131.6.

The board policy directs the school district to address substance abuse and drug possession at the school, the administrative rules (AR) spell out how.

There was little discussion on the policy before the vote.

The item appeared on the board agenda under unfinished business simply as BP 5131.6. Board president Joe Prax noted that the item lacked clarification or an explanation of the content of BP 5131.6 and that it was a second reading.

The new AR calls for students suspected by school staff of drug or alcohol use during school or at district functions be referred to the school’s principal or the superintendent. The administrator will then determine whether or not a student will be drug tested or breathalyzed.

The policy states either the Valdez probation officer for juveniles or police will administer a urine test or breathalyzer.

Students at school sanctioned functions out of town will be taken to close-by medical facilities by coaches if suspected infractions.

The new policy drops extensive and specialized training to detect possible drug abuse signs that were mandated in the original policy from 2005.

A committee headed by Gilson Middle School principal Rod Morrison that was tasked to review the old policy had originally recommended the district use a saliva based testing swab. Urine testing was later reinstated in the policy for its first and second readings.

The new policy also calls for students to spend suspensions mandated by the policy at the school district office and dropped the language in the former policy that caused students to lose credit for school work. It also contains an intervention component that will be provided by the school district.

It also allows students – if they are not suspected of being high or drunk at the time – to seek help from school staff with substance abuse issues without penalty.

“Discussion of drug or alcohol problems with school staff in an attempt to seek help and while not under the influence or under investigation, will not count as an offense under this policy,” the new policy says.

The new policy required revisions to administrative rules and the high school student handbook.

The new policy and administrative rules are published on the district’s website. There, anyone can read the full details of the policy and the new rules.

To find the new policy and rules, go to the main page of the website. On Tuesday morning, it was located directly under the year-end activities calendar.

The review – and eventual passing of the new policy – came at the request of district superintendent Jim Nygaard. At a number of public meetings in the past several months, the superintendent said he felt the old policy was overly punitive and would do little to help students with substance abuse issues.


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