The district recently gave parents the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion via survey. They were asked to pick one of three options — Are you in favor of absolutely no student drug testing program at all?; of a volunteer drug testing program?; or are you in favor of a randomized mandatory drug testing program?
Of the 42 parents who answered the survey, only three preferred having no drug testing whatsoever. Five requested a volunteer-based program, leaving the majority — 34 — wanting to make it mandatory.
This last option would require that a set number of students be randomly selected each month to submit to a panelized drug test. Only students who participate in any form of extra-curricular activity — be it chess club or football — would be required to be part of the program. The school board would select the number of students to be randomly selected each month, as well as which drugs the test would analyze for. Superintendent Ralph Moore said currently half of the schools in the Firelands Conference have some sort of a drug-testing program.
Regardless of whether the program would be voluntary or mandatory, the cost to the district would be about the same — about $17 per student tested, treasurer Stephanie Hanna said.
Moore said he “promised” the testing fees wouldn’t come out of the general fund. Instead, the board is considering an “incremental increase” to extra-curricular fees.
“My only other concern I have if it raises the school fees significantly, will it deter them from participating in the sport or activity?” board member Melissa Allen asked.
After-school activities keep students “out of trouble” and is “an important part of their lives,” she added.
Board member Mike Helmstetter asked if parents could “refer” their student to be tested by the school. Moore said they “absolutely” could bring their child in and ask the school to have them tested, much like parents are able to take the minor to Fisher-Titus Medical Center on the same request.
Vice president Nancy Brown said she was concerned about what the drug test would cover.
“We have more of an alcohol problem here in Monroeville,” she said. “I’m not saying there aren’t drugs here. I know there are, but I think alcohol is a bigger issue in this area right now and I wonder if the panels could test for that.”
Moore said the board can select which drugs to test for. However, the superintendent said they would choose things that were “trending” at the moment. Due to the nature of alcohol though, it most likely wouldn’t be one that the panel would be able to test for. Allen said according to information she recently received from one student, drugs may be a bigger issue than some people may realize.
“He said there are definitely ones (who) use drugs in the school,” Allen said. “I was shocked because the way he said it he indicated it was quite prevalent.”
Moore recommended the board not go with a voluntary program. He said the district currently has a self-referral option for students who admit they have a substance-abuse problem and are seeking help.
“I don’t think a voluntary program is much of a deterrent,” Moore said. “I just don’t think it’s as effective.”
Brown offered the motion for the board. The distric would lean toward mandatory testing with a few requirements, if after one more meeting with parents, they received similar data to the previous survey.
The board gave a tentative agreement on an $8 extra-curricular-fee increase to fund a mandatory testing of five students per month, provided the majority of parents are in favor of such a testing program. Brown requested parents be surveyed again. Action on the matter is expected to follow at the next board meeting, which is at 7 p.m. Aug. 19.