Community Coalition Fights Student Destructive Decisions

The fledgling Clarke County Community Coalition held its second meeting on Thursday at the Clarke County High School. The group, made up of school and law enforcement officials, parents and students, hopes to develop an approach for combating alcohol, drug abuse and other destructive decisions by Clarke County students.

Clarke County High School Principal Dr. John Werner, who chaired the meeting, facilitated a dialogue of goals and potential approaches for the coming school year and will be the faculty sponsor for the initiative.

Werner and the other coalition members, which includes family members of Aaron Shirley and another teen injured in the June 19 traffic accident that claimed the life of the Clarke County High School senior, discussed approaches for improving teen decision making, community perception of the substance abuse problem in Clarke County, and how best to take advantage of help offered by state and local agencies.

Leea Shirley, co-founder of the newly formed CCHS Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter told the meeting attendees that many people in the Clarke County community do not believe that underage drinking is a significant problem.

“Many of the responses that we’ve see on our ‘Shirley You Remember’ Facebook page indicate that people in Clarke County do not see teen drinking as a problem,” Shirley said.

Shirley, a nurse with the Lord Fairfax Health District and Aaron Shirley’s sister-in-law, along with CCHS student Holly Robinson, formed the SADD chapter as a way to help prevent future alcohol-related teen deaths through education and prevention. The Community Coalition is an effort to further involve the community in preventing underage drinking and other destructive decisions.

Much of Thursday’s two hour meeting was dedicated to determining how existing resources from various agencies and programs can be marshaled into programs and forums for Clarke County students.

Asked if the CCPS intended to add any new funding for curriculum or personnel to supplement the effort, Dr. Werner deferred budget decisions to future deliberations by the school board.

Assistant Superintendent, Rick Catlett, also present at the meeting, said that CCPS is considering holding a public hearing, possibly in September, that will allow the public to voice their opinions about additions to the school budget.

“The purpose of the public hearing would be to find out what parents and community members think should be included that isn’t there now. It’s a chance to get input from the public before the school budget is developed,” Catlett said.

In many school systems topics related to personal health and responsibility, including alcohol and drug awareness, are taught in “family life” sessions. Currently Clarke County does not offer a family life curriculum, but plans to implement one over the coming school year.

“The family life program will take all of next year to get going,” Werner said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

CCPS Athletic Director, Casey Childs suggested to the group that physical education periods could be used to deliver alcohol awareness training. “In Loudoun County they use a physical education class period to teach Family Life,” Childs said.

In addition to a Family Life curriculum, a range of other approaches were discussed.

For example, Dr. Werner said that he believes that the Clarke County Educational Foundation would be willing to fund programs like a “Character Summit” where students, working with community leaders, are presented with morals and ethical scenarios designed to help the student consider his or her response well in advance of encountering the problem in reality.

Other approaches discussed included school assemblies presented by local judges and the Commonwealth Attorney’s office to allow students to understand the legal consequences of poor decision making; Classes to familiarize parents with technologies such as Facebook, internet practices, and electronic messaging discovery; The use of student surveys to gain a better understanding of student behavior and student suggestions for solving issues that affect young people.

Dr. Werner discussed prior success that he has had with involving local alcohol retailers in fighting underage drinking through a “Sticker Shock” program.

“In other places where I’ve taught we’ve gone to convenience stores and placed stickers on beer and wine packaging to warn the purchaser about the consequences of providing alcohol to minors.” Werner said. Werner said that most merchants firmly supported sticker shock efforts.

A portion of the discussion centered on punitive methods to deliver the substance abuse message to student violators.

Concerned parent, Todd Carlisle said that drug testing for student athletes is an important component of the solution.

“I don’t want to see the focus on drug testing fade away,” Carlisle said. “If funds are limited for drug testing then we need to figure out how to raise the money to pay for it.”

Principal Werner agreed that drug testing was important but replied to Carlisle that testing programs are also expensive.

“At $50 dollars a drug test it will cost $9K a season to test every athlete. With three athletic seasons a year that’s almost $30K,” Werner said.

One parent suggested that drug tests be treated similarly to the mandatory, physical examinations required for school athletic participation.

“School athletes pay for their own physicals now, why not require them to also pay the $50 cost for the drug testing? Why should Clarke County taxpayers cover the cost?”

Near the end of the meeting both Leea Shirley and Todd Carlisle expressed opinions that there is a strong public belief that information about supposedly random drug testing schedules is being routinely leaked in advance to athletes. If drug testing schedules were leaked in advance, substance abusing athletes conceivably could alter their consumption habits to avoid detection.

The suggestion of impropriety in Clarke County’s drug testing program drew a visceral response from Athletic Director, Casey Childs.

“That is absolutely false,” Childs said. “I know how that program works and nothing like that has ever happened in any way, shape or form.”

In attempting to move the heated discussion on drug testing from perception to facts, CCHS Principal John Werner asked Ms. Shirley “What is your evidence for believing that drug testing is not being conducted properly?”

“We’ll talk about that in private,” Shirley replied.

The Community Coalition meeting was also attended by Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Special Agent Glenn Moore. Moore said that he had received two complaints in the last ten days of alcohol being sold to minors in Clarke County.

Moore said that his department can provide an enforcement resource to the school system.

“The school system can pass issues on to Alcoholic Beverage Control to work on with local law enforcement resources,” Moore said. “We have young agents that we send into parties for sting operations. Once arrests are made we can then take action from a criminal standpoint.”

Special Agent Moore said that tips and complaints can be made anonymously to the ABC office in Staunton, Virginia at 540.332.7800.


  1. J.C.Coon says:

    Positive Progress

  2. So the founder of the local chapter wants to express concerns and possible solutions, yet make an audacious accusation in public only to say ‘We’ll talk about that in private.” – – Weak, very weak.

    CDN Editor: The article does not use the term “accusation” nor were any accusations observed during the meeting by CDN. If the article implies that an accusation was made the implication is unintended.

    • You don’t think those kids are told in advance of a “Random” drug test? You are sadly mistaken. Besides, why just test the student athletes? Why not test every student participating in extracurricular activities?

      • Drug testing is an invasion of privacy, and would require some type of court order, unless voluntary to play a sport, apply for a job, or as the result of breaking a law (DUI) etc.

        • Jeane Cromer says:

          VDOE The 2003 Virginia General Assembly amended sections 22.1-279.6 and 22.1-279.7 of the Code of Virginia to authorize the Virginia Board of Education to develop guidelines for local school boards concerning the implementation of voluntary or mandatory drug testing. The state statutory provisions do not require the adoption of drug testing programs by local school boards, but leave to local board discretion whether drug testing will be encouraged or required. Section 22.1-279.6 of the Code provides that “a school board may, in its discretion, require or encourage drug testing in accordance with the Board of Education’s guidelines and model student conduct policies required by subsection A [of section 22.1-279.6] and the Board’s guidelines for student searches required by § 22.1-279.7.”guidance:

      • Correct me if I’m wrong—but I believe that Richmond emails a random number of names to CCHS for the drug test….so can you clarify how the advanced notice would help anyway? Just curious?

        • Think about it…Coach A gets word that athletes B, F, and J are going to be drug tested. Athletes B, F, and J are told beforehand and then use any of the vast amounts of masking agents available quite easily to beat the test if they think they might fail it otherwise. Now, if athlete B, F, or J were just participants on the team, but not the major necessity that perhaps athlete C or D might be, maybe the coach doesn’t tell them. But you can bet your life that if athlete B, F, or J were major parts of a team that would fall apart without them, Coach A gives them the heads up.

          • With that lack of trust in school administrators, why bother sending your kids to Clarke schools at all? “Think about it”

          • ” … lack of trust in school administrators … ”

            Trust, the key word …

            When that trust is violated there are better ways to seek remedy than to toss baseless innuendo into the furnace like coal as the fire of doubt is stoked by fabricated scenarios that invite the most impressionable to doubt that trust.

          • Yes, but when that trust is violated and the paths to remedy the situation are beset by the same folks involved, it’s time to get creative.
            It’s funny how some people who railed so much against the system a few years ago now try to tell themselves that everything is hunky dory, when it suits them the most.

          • Your “creativity” is nothing more than hate-filled, bombastic, destructive laziness. It’s only a matter of time …

            And while you’re at it, go ahead and make it all about me.


          • Spare me the idle threats. Anyone who has a kid in the school system knows firsthand that the coaches/teachers coddle their athletes.

          • I had children in the system, and I don’t know what your talking
            about. Some played sports, some where in DECA, FFA, HOSA, one was
            even in band.

          • Naked Truth says:

            Keep fighting the good fight, RW! Some people don’t like to hear the truth.

          • Ignorance is Bliss says:

            Justice-when you cannot afford to send your kids to private school, you’re stuck with public. Please do not come on here and try to treat people like they are complete and total idiots and suggest something they would love to do. I’m sure there are so many families who would jump at the opportunity to uproot their kids from this school system IF they could afford to.

            So why don’t “YOU think about THAT!”

          • Darren "Fly" Lambert says:

            You make it sound so easy…Believe me its not that easy! I’ll give you credit though…you do have a great imagination!

          • Nancy Specht says:

            I coached both track and cross country when the drug testing policy was put into effect by athletic director Randy Trenary in the late 1990s. Many of our runners were tested, some several times a season. NEVER did I know beforehand, nor did they, who would be tested. The list was generated at random by the testing facility. The very first testing done our two top runners were tested. The results from all samples? Always negative.

          • Maybe you have better ethics than other coaches.

          • Nancy Specht says:

            No, it’s not about ethics. It’s about well-run testing procedures. I never saw any evidence in any of our programs that a heads-up for testing ever existed.

        • Leea Shirley says:

          Richmond has nothing to do with the names. It is between the facility that does the testing and the athletic dept. at the high school.

          • Darren "Fly" Lambert says:

            Not sure what the exact testing method is now…but the names were once emailed to the principals office by Pembroke Occupational Health (Richmond)….ADS then did the testing.

    • Leea Shirley says:

      I am sorry that you were not at the meeting to understand why it would be discussed in private. I was told by the school administration that I was not allowed to talk about anyone in specific; and if I wanted to address a particular concern I would have to do it in private.

      So please get ALL the facts straight before making comments.

      I hope you will be at the next meeting.

      • Not allowed to talk…. interesting concept.

        • John Q. Public says:

          It falls under FERPA regulations. [redacted]

          • trick or treat says:

            FERPA applies to school personnel not citizens. Unless you are involved in a lawsuit you should be free to speak, particularly when making unsubstantiated accusations about people who have not committed any crimes. If I were a coach being falsely accused of giving specific kids a heads up that they were going to be tested so they could take masking agents, I would seriously consider suing for liable. If you are going to make the accusation go ahead and lay the proof on the table. otherwise….

          • trick or treat says:

            Furthermore, if you do actually have legitimate claims, you are morally obligated to share the information with the school administration so that they can punish these supposed immoral administrators appropriately. This is obviously a matter of public safety, so if you have facts and refuse to provide them than your lack of action could result in future tragedies. No one can do anything without having the facts, even RW knows that.

            WHY would anyone who KNOWS FOR A FACT that something dangerous is going on not stop it? Perhaps because they know NOTHING.

          • Hey, Amir Banks was a known drug user. Now a kid is dead because of him. I think that’s enough evidence that someobody was turning a blind eye.

          • [redacted] It was the beginning of summer, NO FOOTBALL for 2 MONTHS. HELLO????? If the kids are doing it, they know
            when they can and when they can’t.

          • Naked Truth says:

            So you think the kids stop underage drinking and illegal drug use during the school year? Only do it during the summer? Wake up!

          • Naked Truth says:

            Nobody wants to acknowledge that because it proves your point.

          • R U serious?? Yes, if they really don’t want to get caught, then they
            know when they can and when they can’t. They are only subject to
            testing during the time they are playing a sport, not all school year,
            unless they play sports all year. I’m not saying all the kids do this,
            I’m just saying that you can’t expect random drug testing during football
            season to catch every offender. By the way, alcohol can only be detected
            in the system for 24 hours. YOU wake UP!!!!!

            The only reason I pointed this out is because RW wants to blame the
            powers that be for someone not getting caught and it’s just not that
            cut and dry.

          • Naked Truth says:

            I think he is saying that there have been kids who are KNOWN to be using either drugs or alcohol and are never tested or caught. After three years and never? Come on, WAKE UP!

          • John Q. Public says:

            Ummm…that’s why they’re called “random” drug tests. They’re chosen at random, thus it is probable that some kids could make it through their entire HS sports career and never have to provide a sample.

  3. Lonnie Bishop says:

    I’m glad to see this group get going. I’m also glad to see some tougher things to poonder get some much-needed airing: the perception of “gaming” the drug tests, that teen drinking (and drug use) are not really prevalent (much less a problem) in Clarke County, etc.

  4. Time4Change says:

    I think one good thing this group could help start are fun lock-in events for students after prom and perhaps even graduation. If planned right they’ll prefer the controlled party to the ones they hold in fields or hotel rooms.

  5. When I was prom age, the local fire hall hosted an after prom party and local parents provided doughnuts, sodas, breakfast foods, dj and dancing until 7 am following prom. It was a blast!

  6. I think you could easily remedy the drug testing “issues” by eliminating the drug testing all together. It is not mandatory, it is volutary and we are one of VERY FEW schools who do it. According to those of you “who think u know” it is all a set up anyway and therefore a total waste of money. Then you could take that extra money and implement some of the other programs that you are discussing.

    PS I had two children play sports year round at CCHS and they were NEVER told when the testing would occur. And yes RW, they would have been the ones notified according to your theory that only KEY players are told. AND they always tested negative and they always would have.