School officials in Davis County spoke highly of a new random drug testing policy Tuesday, with first-year feedback suggesting lower levels of drug use among student-athletes.
The district administered 1,373 drug tests during the 2013-14 school year, with 29 tests coming back positive for drugs, district athletic director John Robison said.
The testing policy, adopted last April in a 4-2 vote by the school board, applies only to students involved in extracurricular activities such as athletics, cheerleading or student government.
A positive test requires a student to sit out games or activities and pass a clean test prior to returning to full participation, but it does not result in criminal action or punitive measures such as expulsion.
Robison said that of the 29 students who tested positive, all but two later provided clean samples to test administrators.
“I think if we look at the first year, we’re very pleased with a lot of the things we have seen,” Robison said. “The thing that every vice principal will tell us is this: ‘The great part of this is that kids are saying (they) now have an excuse to say no on Saturday night.'”
Several board members reported hearing favorable feedback from their constituents, including parents appreciative of being alerted to their children’s drug use.
“It was quite touching that someone would take the time to say about the testing, ‘Who knows where my kid would’ve been? He was spiraling down, and we had no clue,” board President Tamara Lowe said of an email she received.
Kaestle Charlesworth, a Woods Cross High School student who serves as a student member of the school board, said she had been tested, as had several of her friends, and she had not heard any complaints from her peers at school.
Charlesworth also said she had heard students turn down offers of drugs on the basis of wanting to avoid a positive drug test.
“I feel like the drug use has gone done from last year to this year already, and it’s only been in effect for one year,” she said.
Board members Larry Smith and David Lovato, both of whom opposed the drug testing policy last year, questioned whether the board should consider expanding the random sampling pool to include all high school students.
But other board members said it would be difficult to create a comprehensive policy that would not be punitive. Student leaders and athletes face the threat of minimized participation, they said, which is not available as a deterrent to other students.
“We’re not looking to find all the kids who are using,” Lowe said. “We’re looking to deter everyone we possibly can.”
Robison said drug testing will resume when classes begin in the fall. Students who participate in spring sports will continue to be eligible for random testing throughout the year, unless they later withdraw from their team’s roster.
This article was republished with permission from the author, Benjamin Wood. The original article was published in the Deseret News and can be viewed by clicking here.