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blog: Drug testing at Battle Mountain High School

Maria Scully
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyMaria Scully is an intern with the Vail Daily.
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The administrators at my school, Battle Mountain High School, made a ground-breaking and alarming decision which will have a significant impact on next year’s students.

Due to the rising concern about student drug use, the administrators, along with a few involved parents, will be randomly drug testing all students participating in extra curricular activities beginning next school year. Unfortunately, this stunning ruling has created a massive divide between the administrators and the students. I have yet to decide if I am pro or con for this new policy, but through my research and the feedback from teachers, students, and parents, my stance on this issue is one of cautious optimism.

I have learned that 75 percent of the student body participates in sports or clubs, meaning that more than 375 students will be drug tested throughout the year. Parents are even allowed to sign up their own children for drug tests even if they are not a part of a team or activity. Urine samples will be taken from six random boys and six random girls on a weekly basis.

“We would be choosing students like lottery balls,” explains Mr. Hester, principal at BMHS. “Someone could get chosen three times in a row.” If a student’s urine sample test positive for drugs or alcohol, they lose time on the team or activity. If the student is determined to have used drugs or alcohol on campus, they receive a 5 day suspension. Parent conferences, voluntary assessments, counseling, and educational courses will also be offered in the event of a positive result.

Through my research I discovered that the most commonly used and tested drug in the United States is marijuana, therefore it will most likely to be the main drug for which administrators will test.

Marijuana has been shown to stay in the human body from three up to thirty days, depending on how much marijuana was smoked and how fast the person’s metabolism is.

“Pot can stay in your system for 30 days,” mentions Heidi Sorenson, senior and track team member of BMHS. “If a kid decides to smoke it once, and then 30 days later they join a team and are tested positive, they can no longer be apart of that team. To me, that seems a little unfair.”

In order to understand the effects on sports/clubs teams from drug testing I selected 30 random juniors from BMHS to estimate the amount of drug use within the school.

As I went through each individual’s history, I found that 22 of them, or 73 percent smoked marijuana. From this study, I can estimate that over half the juniors smoke marijuana. One could even possibly extrapolate from this that over half the entire school smokes marijuana as well. If 75 percent of the students participate in a sport or club, and 73 percent test positive for drug use, what teams at BMHS will we have left?

Christine Crotzer, junior at BMHS says “Well, I understand where they are coming from, but I don’t think they realize how many kids in our school actually smoke pot. If they start drug testing, we won’t have any good sports teams anymore.”

Beyond the stats that have been estimated, the other big concern is the invasion of student privacy. Students believe that they have a right to keep their personal lives private and right to have the freedom of making choices for ourselves. Throughout my high school experience, my parents encouraged me to learn right from wrong, and by that, performing experimentation in a responsible, more mature way.

“When in high school, there is nothing wrong with experimenting”, adds Sorenson, “it helps us to understand our limitations and know how to handle peer pressure when we are sent off on our own after high school.” As long as normal experimentation doesn’t turn into addiction or negatively impacts one’s life, then I agree that random drug testing could, in fact, be an invasion of personal privacy.

Anna Schmitt, a junior, adds “Just because a student has smoked pot a couple times in a year doesn’t mean that they have a problem.” I think we can all agree that this is true. What Baby Boomer adults, who are now a responsible citizens and parents, can say they have not experimented during their younger years? Even our Presidents and Presidential candidates cannot say they did not experiment.

Students I spoke with expressed frustration with this new policy and are worried about their sports/clubs success. However, when I spoke with Mr. Ingle, a science teacher, about his outlook on this issue, his views shifted the argument and left me to reconsider my position on this issue: “Say if a student is passionate for a sport, and what they are planning to do with their life, but smoke pot on the weekends or other times outside of school.

They get a scholarship for a great college and possibly a chance to go professional, but they pick up the use of steroids. Because this student was never penalized for smoking pot during high school, they feel it would be alright for them to use steroids. You know, they were never told it was wrong so they think it is ok to do steroids. If one day that student is caught using steroids when he is an adult, he is even more penalized than he would be in high school. It is easier for a student to learn the consequences of drug use now rather than when they are in college or adults.”

I have come to recognize that many students do have a serious problem with drugs or alcohol, so perhaps, as harsh as this new policy is, these students could readjust their life styles and form brighter futures. For these students, this policy could save them from the dire consequences that follow in a life where experimentation alone is not enough.

When walking through the halls of Battle Mountain, I came across the drama teacher’s, Ms. Foster’s, room. On her door is a large green poster that reads “A student needs a role model, not a drinking buddy.” I asked her earlier that week about her opinion on this issue, and her response was just “Read the poster on my door,” and then she strolled away. My friend, Fiona Jepson, comments on the message displayed on the poster:

“I think that it is inevitable that students will be pressured into drinking or smoking during high school no matter what rules are laid upon them. I just believe that all students need a strong parent to help them learn right from wrong and be there for them when they are pressured into doing these things.”

Later that week I visited my friend Anna’s house and discussed the issue with her mother, Ellen Eaton, one of the selected parents organizing this new policy, and her opinion about Fiona’s comment. “The drug testing is only for students who truly have a problem with drugs. We understand that you are going to go out and drink and smoke sometimes, but when a student needs to be high or drunk during school hours or bringing drugs or alcohol on school property, then that student really has a problem. All we are doing is trying to help. Being on a sports team is a privilege and it shouldn’t be that unreasonable to give up smoking pot for a sport or club.”

Her comment enlightened me. It really isn’t that unreasonable to give up drugs in order to participate in a sport, and perhaps being forced to give it up for some time would help students discover healthier hobbies. Taylor Bearsto, senior and former hockey player, mentioned that he wished they had drug testing when he was at Battle Mountain. He said that he realized he had a problem and that the drug testing, as harsh as it may seem, would have really helped make his future brighter.

From my research I have noticed the damage drug testing might do to our sports team next year, but maybe this process will build the student body to become healthier and make better choices. I still feel that students must have the right to experiment in a responsible way, but when a student becomes part of a sports or club teams, the students should understand they must give up some of their rights. This elevates the standard of excellence and raises the bar for students to reach goals that would not be attained otherwise.

Last week we learned that drug testing was approved by the school district. Battle Mountain was even featured on 9 News with comments from the counselor, Ms. Hennessey. Many students are furious about the approval and are threatening to quit any team they have been apart of, and I am sure the administrators are aware of this rebellion. Once my senior year begins, it will be interesting to see the impact of the testing on the participation on Husky sports teams.

Hopefully all the money, time and effort put into the random drug testing will be worth it in the long run.


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