Excerpted from Newsweek By Jason Murdock
Students of a Texas school district must drug tests before they can take part in certain extracurricular activities—including football, choir and chess.
In a letter to parents, Bushland Independent School District’s Board of Trustees said the decision had been made to approve the policy for students in grades 7 to 12. Screening will also be needed before students can receive a parking permit for school grounds.
The scheme will launch in the upcoming school year, KVII-TV reported. The district has said it will help to create a place “free from illegal substance abuse and conducive to learning.” The policy, which asks for consent from students and parents, includes random drug testing.
Samples of the students’ saliva or urine will be used to hunt for substances including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines and opiates.
Testing is required before kids can participate in a slew of activities, including football, theater, cheerleading, cross country, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, track, powerlifting, chess, band, choir, debate, gaming club, yearbook and student council.
The policy noted: “If appropriate consent is not provided, the student will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities or to receive a parking permit.”
According to the Texas district, test results will be confidential and will be disclosed “only to the student, the student’s parents, and designated district officials who need the information to administer the drug-testing program.”
Officials said positive tests—to be conducted by trained staff, certified providers or contractors—will not be used to impose academic penalties.
The board of trustees’ letter said: “This policy and the program that it supports are designed not for punitive measures, but to eliminate the potential threat to the student’s health and safety that can occur if students are using or under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. We want the testing program to deter drug and alcohol use and help students live drug-free lives.”
District superintendent Chris Wigington told KVII-TV the policy had been under consideration for roughly a year and denied local schools currently have a drug problem. “The board wants to be proactive,” he said, before describing extracurricular activities as “privileges not rights.”
On Facebook, comments were mixed. “Do they test teachers too?” one person wrote under a post about the drug tests. Another said it sounded like a “giant step in the right direction!”
Wigington did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking if teachers or faculty staff at the district’s schools will have to undergo drug testing before the next semester.
The district said in a form detailing the scope of the policy that random tests will be conducted on as many as 10 dates throughout the school year, without any prior notice for the students. Anyone who refuses or tampers with samples will face “appropriate consequences.”
The policy works on a four-tiered system—with penalties largely consisting of suspensions from competitions, extracurricular activities and parking lasting between 30 and 365 days.
The severity of the consequences will depend on the number of positive test results. They will be cumulative through middle school but will not carry through to high school, officials said.
“Great kids make bad decisions every day and what we want to do is make sure that our kids have the opportunity to make mistakes but come back and make amends,” Wigington said. The district has roughly 1,400 students and covers Bushland Elementary School, Bushland Middle School and Bushland High School.