The Clarke County School Board had its first look at a revised Athlete Drug Testing Program last week. That new policy, last revised in 2008, is meant to provide school officials with a structured process for discouraging drug use by school athletes and a means for removing students from athletic programs in the event they are found to be using an illegal substance.
Although the testing will detect cocaine, THC, amphetamines, steroid,s and other drug substances, CCPS director of operations, Randy Trenary told the school board members the testing will not detect alcohol abuse.
Alcohol, rather than illicit drug abuse, has been indicated as the primary factor in the deaths of several Clarke County teens in recent years.
The “first reading” of the drug testing policy provided the school board with its first chance to publicly discuss the proposed document. While the school board seemed generally comfortable with the document, the policy will see at least one more public meeting before any final decision is made on its adoption.
The proposed policy indicates that the student/athlete drug testing program is to protect student health, safety and welfare and to strengthen partnerships among faculty, administrators, coaches, parents, and students in order to reduce alcohol and other drug (AOD) related barriers and hazards to academic, athletic and personal development and success. The policy designates the Clarke County High School principal as the CCPS school division administrator in charge of the student athlete drug testing program.
However, while the document states that counseling and education programs will also be used to address illegal alcohol and drug use by Clarke County students, there appears to be little new in the way of solutions for fighting alcohol abuse by teens. Even though illicit drug use by teens is a problem throughout the country, alcohol consistently ranks first as the drug of choice by teens. Based on local and national evidence, alcohol has the highest potential for abuse by teens yet CCPS’s new testing policy does not provide for screening teen drinking.
“With regard to the term ‘AOD,’ the proposed policy does not state that we will test for every drug that was ever produced or that are real or perceived problems in our society,” said Dr. Murphy. “For instance, we don’t test for the ‘drugs’ nutmeg, DiPT, Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Xenical, aerosols, catnip, urine, salvia, Anafranil (clomipramine), or prescription drugs, but I’m sure they are a problem for some people in some places, and mostly legal, too,” wrote Murphy in an electronic mail message when asked about the absence of alcohol testing in CCPS’s program. “Just because law enforcement doesn’t see ‘significant activity’ with cocaine, or some other drug, doesn’t mean that the message should be any different.”
Both Chief White and Sheriff Roper agreed with Murphy’s assessment that arrest statistics don’t necessarily reflect the level of possible drug use in Clarke County.
“Although the arrest rates may not always accurately reflect the actual drug usage rates in a community,” said Berryville Police Chief Neal White; “based purely on arrest statistics we do not have a big problem with illicit drug use by teens in Berryville.”
Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper said “We have a significant problem if one kid in Clarke County uses illegal drugs. But the anecdotal evidence is that more kids here are drinking alcohol rather than using drugs. If the schools have the ability to test for alcohol in addition to the other drugs then they should do it.”
Both Roper and White stated that they had not seen CCPS’s proposed Athlete Drug Testing Program revision nor were they involved in its formulation.
CCPS’s proposed drug testing policy provides a host of specific details on the process for randomly selecting students for drug testing and penalties for failing a drug test. For example, athletes suspected of using steroids will be tested; approximately 10% of the active student athletes will randomly tested each season; students will not be notified in advance of any drug test; students will remain under school supervision until a urine sample is provided; if an adequate urine sample is not provided the student will be ineligible to participate in sports; sample tampering may cause a student to be dropped from the team, absent extenuating circumstances; students will be asked to empty pockets and remove jackets before entering the bathroom in order to provide a sample.
The policy’s response to potential alcohol abuse is less specific and addressed as part of the broader approach to drug testing after the fact;
- Protect the health, safety and welfare of the student.
- Create supportive environments in which students are empowered to make responsible and healthy lifestyle choices.
- Promote non-use behavior.
- Recognize that substance abuse is a national, state, and regional problem.
- Communicate realities, misperceptions, and secondary effects of AOD abuse.
- Employ strategies that will improve the school environment as well as
individual attitudes towards responsible behavior.
- Provide policies that emphasize the use of AOD will not be tolerated.
- Provide educational programs.
In the event that a student athlete is found to have violated CCPS’s AOD policies, penalties are strict. For the first positive test result the athlete will be removed from the team for the remainder of the season and placed on a six month suspension from interscholastic athletics. The athlete will be required to participate in a substance abuse education/intervention program.
After a second positive test result, the athlete will be removed from participation in practice and competition for 365 days from the date of the positive test. Drug testing, at the expense of the parents, will be required on a monthly basis once the athlete resumes participation in athletics and the athlete must participate in a substance abuse education/intervention program.
A third positive test result will result in the athlete being ineligible for participation in interscholastic athletics for the remainder of his/her high school career.
While the CCPS Athlete Drug Testing Program policy provides an important component of reducing substance abuse by athletes, both Murphy and School Board Chairman Barbara Lee emphasized that a concerted community response is vital to preventing future teen substance abuse tragedies.
“Since most kids are not producing alcohol in their basements or garages or barns, the real emphasis, in my opinion, should be enforcement, combined with education,” Dr. Murphy said.”If kids can’t purchase alcohol – the enforcement component- then it becomes even more a community / family) issue; If they are not making the alcohol then they must be getting it from somewhere -the education component. The AOD policy is just one more component of an effort to “reduce alcohol and other drug related barriers and hazards to academic, athletic and personal development and success. There is not going to be a one-size fits all program to cure the ills of drug and alcohol abuse.”
“Teen drinking tends to occur on weekends, specifically Friday and Saturday nights so that it is difficult to test by a school day,” said School Board Chairman Barbara Lee (Millwood). “It is definitely worth investigating the possibility of an alcohol test. I still wish the community and law enforcement would have formed an active task force by this time as I am convinced we can do much more if everyone buys into the need for increased vigilance.”
“There are many other parts to the puzzle that could be put into place, but as I have said before, this is just as much a community issue as it is a school issue,” Murphy said.
“This policy gives our kids a reason, when faced with peer pressure, the opportunity to â€˜Just say no.’”