Having voted 7-0 to adopt a random drug testing policy for high school students participating in extracurricular activities during their April 10 meeting, the Fairfield County School Board Tuesday night began discussions on implementing that policy. A public hearing was held on the policy April 16.
At the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, Tony Armstrong spoke to the Board and urged them to help cover the cost of treatment. Under the proposed policy, the School District would only be responsible for paying for the drug test. Treatment costs would be left to the students and their parents.
The cost of the individual test, interim superintendent David Eubanks said, would be $70, and during the course of the year approximately 60 to 70 students would be randomly tested, with names selected by a computer from a database. Eubanks also noted that there were several drug counseling services in Fairfield County that would be available to students at no charge.
“The general feeling is there will be sufficient assistance at no cost to the majority of our students,” Eubanks said. “I also believe that where insurance is available, it can also be used for that purpose.”
Board Chairwoman Andrea Harrison stated emphatically that money should not be an issue.
“We need not dance around the issue,” Harrison said. “We have the money in Fairfield. If we can put up 500 security cameras, we can pay for the tests for our children. If there are additional services that they need, we can pay for it. That’s just the bottom line. We have the money here in Fairfield and we are going to unleash the rein that we have on our children’s money. If this is something that the District is implementing, then we should be able to provide the foundation to make sure that care is gotten. I’m not resolved that we put a policy into place, and then we just throw children to the wolves and say, ‘OK parents, get assistance.’ We’re not going to do that. The funds are available. We’re not going to act like it’s such a burden to us to take care of our children; that is our job.”
Board member Danielle Miller agreed, but said the Board should decide on how much to budget for treatment. She also pointed out that substance abuse treatment facilities are located in local neighborhoods, which does not lend itself to confidentiality.
“Where is a safer place to take them?” Miller asked. “You don’t want to give anybody a bad perception.”
Eubanks said the policy emphasizes deterrence, and not punishment, and administration would explore other options for confidential treatment.
Board member Annie McDaniel said she was concerned about the confidentiality of the tests – not the test results, she said, but the testing itself.
“Every student is going to know that if they participate in an activity they could possibly be drug tested,” Harrison clarified. “So, there’s no confidentiality there among the students. If you and I play basketball, then I know at some point you or I could possibly be drug tested.”
“Just because you and I know doesn’t mean I need to see you being escorted across the school and taken out to be drug tested,” McDaniel said.
No vote was taken on the first reading of the policy.