SHOULD ALL KY SCHOOLS DO THE SAME?
Student drug testing to be restarted in Pike
With a unanimous decision, the Pike County Board of Education voted Thursday in a special called meeting to reinstitute random student drug testing within the district to provide students with a possible deterrent to the drug epidemic in Eastern Kentucky.
“This is not a situation where we are trying to ‘get’ students, or have that ‘gotcha’ moment,” Pike County Schools Superintendent Reed Adkins said. “This is a situation where we can give students an opportunity to say ‘no.’ We can put the threat there that there is a chance they will be tested and, for most students, just the chance to be tested gives them enough incentive, a reason, to be able to say no.”
Previously, over a five-year period, the school system had random drug testing for students, a program that was administered in the county by now-board member Ireland “Heavy” Blankenship and current Pike County Schools Pupil Transportation Director Ancie Casey.
“From my point of view, I can tell you, in the past, it was a real deterrent in our schools,” Casey said. “Among our student athletes and drivers on our campuses, it was effective, and I am pleased to hear the board is thinking about going in this direction. A lot of our personnel at our schools are wanting this and our coaches are ready for this.”
The former drug testing policy for the school system was covered by a grant that paid for 20 percent of students at each school to be tested. The board is in the process of writing another grant to help pay, but until the grant is written, the district will absorb the costs. With that in mind, Adkins recommended changing the amount from 20 percent of students to read as “three percent or more.”
“One of the things I did with the budget is rearrange some money in the School Safety grant,” Pike County Schools Director of Finance Nancy S. Grubb said. “We will have supply money to start up the drug testing and not have to take it out of the contingency. It will fall under School Safety to give us the startup before we get the grant written.”
The process of the selection of the students to be drug tested is one that allows the selection to be completely random.
As explained by Adkins, Blankenship and Casey, students who participate in an activity, whether it is athletics, clubs or groups, will be eligible to be tested. The students who are categorized as eligible will have permission slips sent home to parents who will make the decision to allow their student to be tested. If the parents give permission, then the student will be included in the pool for possible drug tested students.
“I really cannot imagine a parent that will not want their child to be in this program,” said Adkins.
The company does not receive a list of names of the students because the program generates a unique numerical code for each student. The school system will not receive that list of numerical codes until the company hands it to the principal of the given school. The numerical list is brought and the student names are generated to reflect that list.
No employee of the board or of the school system will have the names until the company is prepared to begin the drug testing.
“I know some parents may have a question about the drug testing policy,” said board member Frank D. Ratliff. “But what if, in that pool of people, we include the school staff, board members, everybody in the school system? Would that make parents fell much better about it if they knew that not only their children are being drug tested, but also the people that are educating them?”
Per reports by the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky School Boards Association, other schools systems in the state that have discussed instituting school employee drug testing have discovered the costs associated with time commitments and monies to replace staff that is being tested, distractions from work and invasion-of-privacy concerns usually outweigh the results.
Also, if an employee did test positive, then the school system would have to decide on, approve and adopt a policy on rehabilitation of employees.
In 2013, according to the KSBA, when Jessamine County was researching whether to institute the employee drug testing, results of three school districts that were performing employee drug testing revealed that the districts had never had a teacher test positive for an illegal substance. In 21 combined years of testing in those three school systems, five classified employees tested positive.
By Chase Ellis