A proposed Grand County School District drug testing policy would require high school students who want to participate in drama, debate, cheerleading, sports or any other extracurricular school activity covered by the Utah Activities Association, to first pee in a cup to have their urine analyzed for drugs or alcohol. After the initial screening, students would then be subjected to random drug testing.
The Grand County Board of Education is set to discuss the issue of implementing drug testing at at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, at the district office, 264 S. 400 East. The public is welcome to attend.
During the meeting, the board could pass, reject, table or decide to further discuss the idea, according to Grand County School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Crane.
The policy would require parental permission to take samples from students, which would then be tested for alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates and PCP, or phencyclidine. Tests would be conducted at the school by trained and supervised individuals, Crane said.
The superintendent estimated the cost of the testing to be around $7,000 to $9,000 per school year, depending on whether, and how many, parents request verification testing at an independent laboratory if initial tests come back positive. If an outside lab verifies that the test is positive, the district is considering the possibility of asking parents to pay for the approximate $50 lab fee. If no drugs are detected in the second test, the school district would pay for the verification, Crane said.
The district is considering the new drug policy in response to data from a Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey, which indicates that Grand County High School sophomores’ and juniors’ use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs during their lifetimes and/ or the past 30 days to be significantly higher than the state average, Crane said. The SHARP survey is given to participating students (with parental permission) every two years.
“We’ve struggled with (student substance abuse) for years, and determined it was time to address the issue,” Crane said. “We want to give students a reason not to participate in these drugs. All this does is give students an excuse to tell their friends.”
“We looked at other schools in Utah that already have (a drug testing) policy and the information we received is it is working good,” he added. “It gives kids a reason not to party on the weekend.”
Drug testing proponents claim a drug testing program deters students from consuming drugs, and gives them a legitimate reason to resist peer pressure – although according to a 2015 article in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), these claims have not been proven. The AAP states that drug testing of adolescents pose risks of “harming the school-child relationships by creating an environment of resentment, distrust, and suspicion.”
For those reasons, plus the lack of scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy of drug testing or constructive outcomes of school-based drug testing, the AAP opposes school-based drug testing at this time.
Proposing a drug testing policy for the high school was a group decision that involved the activities director, the school resource officer, Grand County High School Principal Stephen Hren, and others, according to Hren. The school is also planning to develop education about drugs and alcohol abuse, he added.
“We’ve always heard about alcohol and drug use, but unless you catch them with drugs and alcohol it’s difficult to consequence them,” Hren said. “Therefore, the community feels that we’re tolerant, and not doing anything (to stop it).”
At the beginning of a season, students who want to participate in an extracurricular activity must sign an agreement that they will not be in the presence of, or consume, alcohol or drugs, Hren said.
“So, if they’re at a party and out comes alcohol or drugs, they are to leave immediately and call their coach and parent (whatever hour it happens to be),” Hren said. “The coach will call an administrator, so we know what happened and protocol was followed.”
If a student does not leave a party where there is alcohol or drugs, even if he or she is not consuming, and then it is proven by Facebook photos or other means that they were present, the student “is sanctioned just as if they were consuming,” Hren said.
Although there must be concrete evidence before a student is penalized, if someone reports that a student has marijuana or some other illegal substance in his or her pack, administrators will search it, Hren said.
The U.S. Supreme Court established the legality of school-based drug testing for school athletes more than 15 years ago; in 2002, the ruling was expanded to include students who participate in any extracurricular activity. The evidence presented in these rulings was based on anecdotal reports and testimonials.
Seventeen-year old Kylie Haycock plays volleyball and softball at Grand County High School and she said she wouldn’t have a problem with being tested.
“I am all for drug testing because if you’re going to join a sport and be part of a team, drugs can alter your state of mind and you’re putting your team in jeopardy,” Haycock said. “So if you want to do drugs, don’t sign up for a team where people are counting on you.”
Other community members are not so sure school drug testing is a good idea.
“I think it infringes on students’ rights of privacy a little bit,” said Sherri Costanza, a Moab mother of three children. “If I see your kid on the bench for two weeks, I’m going to know why.”
Costanza said she’s “all for early intervention” but that the money would be better spent on education and prevention, and that the issue should be between the child, the parents and a doctor.
Moab attorney Christina Sloan said in an email that she is “opposed to drug testing in our schools without clear evidence of a pervasive drug problem in our sports programs.”
In her experience as a former school athlete, she said student athletes are not likely to get in trouble with drugs because they are busy and have different priorities. She said she would reconsider her view if the school district provided compelling evidence of a problem.
“The drug policy would be legal under the U.S. Supreme Court 1995 Veronica case,” Sloan said. “But, it would undermine student and parental trust in our educators and negatively impact our kids’ privacy expectations at school. It just goes too far.”
Test results would remain confidential and would be kept in secure location until the student graduates from high school, and then destroyed, Crane said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, states that students participating in school-based drug testing risk “breach of confidentiality” because federal confidentiality laws do not apply to school records.
“Students who refuse to release their medical history to school personnel risk being cited for a positive drug test result caused by the appropriate use of a prescribed medication,” according to the AAP website. The site also says that information gleaned from a single accurate drug test result is limited, and that “a positive drug test result does not diagnose use disorder or indicate that a specific intervention is needed, and a negative drug test result does not rule out a substance use disorder.”
When asked if random drug testing would deter students who could benefit from participating in extracurricular activities, Hren responded “that argument to me is not logical – then we’re saying we condone it; that it’s okay; come on and join us.”
Drug and alcohol use amongst students goes in waves, and is not a chronic issue, Hren said.
“We’re no different than any typical high school,” he said. “A drug testing policy would lend more credibility and not (make us appear) tolerant.”
In addition to the June 10 meeting, community members can also visit the district website, www.grandschools.org, for more information about the proposed policy. Questions and concerns can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proposal would affect students who participate in extracurricular activities
We’ve struggled with (student substance abuse) for years, and determined it was time to address the issue … We want to give students a reason not to participate in these drugs. All this does is give students an excuse to tell their friends.