BIG PINEY – The Sublette County School District (SCSD) No. 9 Board of Trustees approved the first reading of a mandatory drug testing policy for all students involved in extracurricular activities at its regular meeting last Thursday. The policy must pass one more reading before it can take affect.
After seeking legal counsel, Superintendent Gerry Chase added two elements to the policy – refusal to take a third drug test after previously being found positive of drug use would result in an automatic third positive result, and any parent who objects to the school board using general funds to pay for testing can pay for tests themselves.
Since the policy would allow drug testing year round, even during the summer months, Board member Mack Rawhouser asked about the students who leave town during the vacation.
“How do we monitor that?” he asked.
Chairman David Burnett explained the policy does not exclude a student, even one who requires monthly drug monitoring, from going away during the summer, and added “there is a difference between policy and procedure.” Burnett’s distinction between the two would be a common theme throughout the meeting.
While in full support of the policy, Vice Chairman Kurt Meeks asked what would happen should the policy face legal opposition.
“What would be our best avenue around modifying the policy if it turns out not to work the way we intended it to?” Meeks asked.
Burnett responded by saying it is the function of the board to establish, alter or revoke a policy based on the needs of the school district.
“We can, through board approval, add an addendum, alter it or start over,” Burnett said. “We do have one final reading on this, and I think the board’s goal was to have it in place by the next school year. We’re not in a rush to get this thing done by May.”
Chase added the third party drug testing company has a medical review officer on staff, which will assist the board in avoiding legal troubles. He also echoed Burnett’s desire not to rush into a policy that will not be mandated until August.
“I think we need at least 45 days with the third party to get the protocol established,” Chase said.
One resident asked if a company other than the one chosen by the district could test a student, to which Burnett gave a definitive “no.” The same resident asked why nicotine was not included in the testing. Burnett said because the legal age for nicotine possession or use is 18, meaning it is a “shady area.”
“We feel adequately covered with what we’re trying to do with drugs and alcohol,” Burnett said. “Nicotine will not alter a student’s consciousness or create a safety issue.”
While students would be mandated to take random drug tests, employees, including teachers and coaches, would not. Voluntary drug testing is an option for staff who wish to act as role models for students, but Burnett said the board cannot require any employee to take a drug test.
“Just because an employee chooses not to volunteer for a drug test does not make them guilty of doing drugs. But, if they are found positive, then we refer them to the superintendent,” Burnett told the resident who raised the question.
With no opposition, the board unanimously approved the first reading of the policy. With one reading to go, Burnett urged the board to review the policy and bring forth any questions at the next meeting.
“We still have to establish what we want in terms of the procedural part of the policy … these are all important questions, but they still need to be worked out,” Burnett concluded.
Also at the meeting:
• The board approved the 2012-13 contracts of seven SCSD No. 9 employees – Vicki Carlson, Big Piney High School (BPHS) special education teacher; Stanley Wayne Dodds, Big Piney Middle School (BPMS) Principal; Patrick Lupton, BPMS science instructor; Ken Sare, assistant BPMS track coach; Bill Lehr, activities director; Glade Mitchell, Big Piney Elementary School (BPES) fourth grade teacher; and Brett Nordahl, BPES fifth grade teacher.
• BPHS student Caleb Brackett gave a report to the board. Brackett said the Big Piney Prom at the Southwest Sublette County Pioneers Senior Center in Marbleton was a huge success, with no reports of bad or unwanted behavior.For the complete article see the 05-04-2012 issue.
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