WRHS pushes mandatory drug testing

Express Staff Writer

Wood River High School students involved in extra-curricular activities face random drug testing during the 1998-99 school year if the Blaine County School Board approves the proposal.

The school board is scheduled to hear the proposition later this summer.

The school would join three other Idaho high schools-- Buhl, Blackfoot and Priest River-- that have implemented drug-testing of such students.

High school athletic director Charlie Miller, who proposed the plan, said drug testing is all about accountability and responsibility.

"Our intent isn’t to catch people," said Miller.

Currently, students participating in sports, band and various clubs sign a code of conduct stating they will not use drugs or alcohol.

"I visited three classrooms, and asked the kids to raise their hands if they followed the code. Not one hand went up," Miller said.

If the plan is adopted, Miller said participating students will be assigned a number, and every week 10 percent of the students will be randomly selected by a computer for testing. Members of the police department, hospital or the school nurse will administer the test.

Buhl athletic director Jon Jund agreed with this method, and said it’s important that students don’t feel targeted.

"We’ve tried to establish integrity in the program by not doing any of the testing ourselves," Jund said.

Jund said testing has gone extremely well at Buhl this first year, and 50 schools have contacted him for information on the program.

The urinalysis test detects the drugs amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, PCP and THC within five minutes. The results remain confidential between student, parents and Wood River High School Principle Bill Resko or Miller.

If a student tests positive and wants to continue to participate in an activity, he or she is required to take a six-week substance abuse course provided by the school. The student will also be tested weekly. If the student tests positive again, he or she is dismissed from any team or club for two seasons. Miller said a false test reading would be rare.

Miller said students who feel they tested positive falsely would be tested again immediately. If the second test shows a positive result, the test is analyzed by the hospital for possible prescription medications that may have tainted the results.

"But, most students who test positive know they’re going to, and admit it," Miller said.

According to Roche Diagnostic Systems, the company that manufactures the test, the test is 99.7 percent accurate.

Jund and Miller agree the most positive aspect of drug testing is its impact on peer pressure.

"The important thing is that this gives students another chance to say ‘no,’ because it’s not easy," said Miller. "They have a chance to say ‘I may be tested,’ and they can blame the school."

"Some thought this would cost us players, but participation has been up three to five percent this year," said Jund.

Still, the coaches don’t have unrealistic expectations.

"We’re not going to stop drug use, but if we save one kid, it’s worth it," Jund said.

Buhl students who were tested this school year tend to agree. In a survey of 100 students, 71 percent said student drug use decreased, and a third of the students said there was less peer pressure to do drugs. Although 25 percent of students felt the program wasn’t beneficial, only two percent of students felt the test violated their civil rights.

Miller said civil rights and privacy cease to be issues because students sign an affidavit stating they will submit to testing in order to participate in extra-curricular activities.

"It’s a privilege, it is not a right to participate," Miller said.

The coach also thinks drug testing is something students face when they graduate. Drug testing in the work place is becoming common practice.

"I’ll be the first one to take the test," he said.

WRHS social worker Robert Payne said he hopes drug testing is an avenue to change students’ attitudes toward drugs and to promote debate and communication between parents and students.

Payne said the community needs to take a proactive stance against drug use.

"Drug testing is just the tip of the iceberg in addressing this problem," he said.


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