OC board considers alcohol, drug tests

OC board considers alcohol, drug tests

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 9:02 pm

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
After considerable study, the Obion County School Board has taken the next step toward possibly implementing alcohol and drug testing of high school students who participate in extracurricular activities.
The board voted this morning during its monthly session to place the matter on the agenda for a second reading at its March board meeting.
In September 2010, the board approved the first reading of an amendment to board policy which would allow random drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities. The board went so far as to declare specific guidelines to be met as outlined in state law and set July 1, 2011, as the effective date of the policy change.
However, at its October 2010 meeting, the board voted to table the second reading of the policy amendment pending further study. The board also suggested its student representative could conduct a poll among students to receive input.
Since then, the student bodies at both Obion County Central High School and South Fulton High School have been surveyed.
It was explained to the students that Tennessee had passed a law allowing random drug testing to be administered for any student participating in extracurricular activities — which encompasses all sports, clubs and more, including the privilege of driving to school. They were told that the results of the tests would be for their safety and could not be used as evidence to expel or arrest them, with intervention and counseling to be provided for any student who fails the randomly-administered tests.
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss reported today that nearly 62 percent of the students who answered the survey approve the practice of randomly drug testing students involved in extracurricular activities.
The board voted this morning to bring the policy matter off the table for further discussion and — after hearing the survey results and input from OCCHS assistant principal, athletic director and softball coach Tommy Victory — to place the matter back on its agenda next month for a second reading.
Victory said meetings have been held with coaches and club sponsors at the two high schools and he reported 100 percent in favor of the procedure. He said it comes down to the issue of safety when a student is put in an athletic arena or taken to a convention.
Victory added that students may be deterred from using drugs if they know they may be tested.
Huss concurred and said the testing would give students the extra incentive to “say no” to drugs and alcohol. He said testing students in grades 9-12 involved in any extracurricular activities — which even includes driving a car to school — will cover about 90 percent of the county’s high school students.
Huss said there has been discussion of conducting the random testing five times a year and the local hospital has quoted a good price for conducting the testing. He said a cost of $17.50 per test is not a huge amount in order to give students an incentive to avoid drug and alcohol use.
He explained that all students would sign a consent form at the start of the school year and the testing would be conducted completely at random by the designated testing agency during the school year. The school system would not choose which students to be tested at a given time, with the students to be selected at random by the tester from a provided data base.
“This actually gives kids the incentive to say no,” Huss reiterated.
Victory said the bottom line is that school officials want to see students test negative for drugs, but they also want to see them receive the necessary help to overcome a problem in the event they test positive.
In other action during today’s meeting, which was opened in prayer by chairman Brian Rainey, the school board:
• Approved a proposed school calendar for the 2011-12 school year, recommended by Huss on behalf of the school system’s calendar committee.
According to the calendar, the first day of classes for the 2011-12 school year is scheduled for Aug. 17. The calendar includes an abbreviated fall break Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 7-10; Thanksgiving holidays, Nov. 23-27; Christmas holidays, Dec. 21-31, with classes to resume Jan. 3, 2012, after being off Jan. 2 for New Year’s Day; and spring break, April 2-5, 2012. The last day of school for students is scheduled to be a half-day on May 17, 2012.
Huss commended the calendar committee for its work.
• Accepted a bid of $83,156 from Atlas Greenhouse Systems Inc. for the purchase and construction of a greenhouse for OCCHS’ Agriculture Enhancement Grant.
At its January meeting, the board approved a recommendation to reject a greenhouse bid from another contractor due to its exceeding budget estimates by about $30,000 and to start the bidding process over.
Huss said Atlas’ bid is the only bid received this time and it better fits within the confines of the amount budgeted for the project.
• Approved the second and final reading of an amendment to board policy regarding personal property sales.
• Approved on first reading an amendment to board policy regarding interscholastic athletics. The change recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) is in response to a recent change in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association’s bylaws to allow homeschooled students to participate in extracurricular activities at member schools if certain qualifications are met.
Huss said for the second reading of the amendment, he will add administrative procedures which will include a participation fee for homeschool athletes.
• Approved a consent agenda that includes a monthly personnel report, approval of substitute teachers, financial reports and approval of technology equipment declared surplus and disposed of.
The personnel report lists the retirement of South Fulton Elementary educational assistant Ann Faulkner; the hirings of South Fulton Middle/High School teacher Leea Spurlock, OCCHS teacher Andrew Atkins, South Fulton Elementary educational assistants (EA) Mary Spivey and Jenah Blalock, Ridgemont Elementary EA Tracy Dyer, Lake Road Elementary EA Kellye M. Albright, Hillcrest Elementary custodian Donna Blakley and OCCHS custodian Peggy Grady; and the resignations of OCCHS teacher/coach Greg Fowler, OCCHS teacher Jennifer Creech, Lake Road pre-kindergarten EA Tammy Snead and Hillcrest custodian Tiffany Jones.
Substitute teachers added for the month include Rickey Mask, Debra Alexander, Ashley Wilbanks, Jenah Blalock and Ashleigh Roberson.
• Approved five overnight student trips.
• Was reminded of the upcoming TSBA Day on the Hill in Nashville and the board’s annual retreat to be held all day Feb. 25 at the Obion County Public Library. Rainey said he recently sent board members the evaluation form to be used in Huss’ annual evaluation, which is the final agenda item to be discussed at the retreat.
Board member Susan Williams was absent from this morning’s meeting.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 2.11.11

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