Eagle-Vail: Students may be drug tested | VailDaily.com
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Eagle-Vail: Students may be drug tested

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” A random drug testing policy could soon be implemented at Battle Mountain High School that school leaders hope will deter substance abuse and help students battling addiction find counseling and treatment.

School leaders say drug and alcohol use is a serious problem at Battle Mountain and has affected their ability to educate students. In the past two years, there have been dozens of students sent to the principal’s office and suspended because of drugs and alcohol, and six students have been expelled.

This spring, two seniors were rejected from the University of Colorado because of school suspensions related to drug or alcohol use. These students, who take AP classes and are at the top of their class, would normally be shoe-ins for CU, Assistant Principal Philip Qualman said.

Students involved in extra-curricular activities like sports would be subject to the random drug testing, and with more than 75 percent of the students at Battle Mountain involved in extra curricular activities, a testing policy would effect a lot of students, leaders say.

The goal, along with getting help for students who are using drugs, is really to deter substance abuse all together.

Athletics and competition are very important to many students, and the possibility of being caught using drugs and letting down the team gives students a way to battle peer pressure, Principal Brian Hester said.

“We’re providing a way for students to say, ‘No, I can’t do it,'” Hester said.

For students who test positive for drug use, the school will provide a way to quickly get them help and get them clean. A Student Assistance Program would be created to assess a student’s problem, provide counseling and find appropriate treatment.

The Student Assistance Program would have a full time director and would be a resource available to all students ” not just for those who test positive on the random testing. It would be a place where students could seek confidential help without fear of punishment, counselor Jeanne Hennessy said.

When teachers notice emotional problems or signs of drug and alcohol use with their students, they’ll have a good place to send them. Teachers get to know their students very well, and can often tell when something’s wrong, Hennessy said.

Students worried about their friends would also have a place to find help, and students who realize on their own that they have a problem would have a place to go without fear of being punished, Hennessy said.

Confidentiality will be very important, and teachers will be trained to make sure that students who are referred to the program won’t feel like they’re being compromised. The idea is to get them help before they get into trouble.

“If they were to come to the program and say they were using and they could potentially be tested and fail, we would give them support and help them avoid those measures, to avoid punishment and find them help,” Hennessy said.

Students who test positive for drugs or are caught using by school officials or law enforcement will though face serious consequences, such as suspension from school and athletics and even expulsion.

The drug testing policy was created by the Battle Mountain High School Drug Task Force, which was made up of a large group of educators and community members. The policy was presented to the Board of Education Wednesday, and could go to a vote at the next meeting.

Every one or two weeks, six males and six females would be randomly selected by a computer for testing.

The school will purchase kits that can test urine samples at the school. Positive tests will be sent to a lab to be confirmed. If the second test is positive, parents or guardians will be informed, a meeting will be set up with the principal or athletic director, and the student will be referred to the newly created Student Assistance Program, which will perform an assessment of the student’s substance abuse, recommend an appropriate course of counseling and find treatment.

Consequences:

For students who test positive, or who are caught using drugs at school or by law enforcement, there are also strict consequences.

Along with being sent to the Student Assistance Program to find help and treatment, students who are caught using drugs or alcohol at school or at school events would suspended from classes for five days and from sports activites for 20 percent of the season. They’ll be able to return to competition only after a negative drug test.

For the second offense? Recommendation for expulsion. Previously, students would only face expulsion after their third offense.

Consequences are different for students caught with drugs or alcohol outside of school, which is reported to the school by law enforcement.

After one offense, students would receive a temporary suspension from athletics and could return with a negative drug test. Their second would mean suspension from athletics for a full year, with the ability to return after six months, given a negative drug test and community service. A third offense would mean no extra curricular activities for the duration of their high school career.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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