School board discusses drug testing policy

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2010

The school board continued to mull its options on instituting a student athlete drug testing policy on Monday.

Prompted by actions taken by several other school districts around the state which have put testing polices in place, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District started considering one of its own last year.

At the Board of Education's work session this week, members gave the idea an icy reception, but suggested the district look at alternatives and deterrents.

Board member Sammy Crawford, of Kalifornsky Beach, said that to her, the main drug issue for Peninsula athletes is alcohol.

"It seems to me that unless the random drug testing was done Saturday night, that chances are, it's not going to show up," she said.

Board member Bill Holt, of Kasilof, also voiced concerns, specifically about the confidentiality of test results in "close knit" communities.

Anchorage attorney Andie Stone, who presented to the board about the legal framework necessary to implement a policy, said that other school districts were successful at following confidentiality policies regarding student information.

"It's incumbent upon your administrators to understand the law," she said.

Board member Sunni Hilts, of Seldovia, was also skeptical of a testing program.

"If we have one (test) at the beginning of every sports season I think that's really an enormous waste of money," Hilts said.

She felt that students would simply avoid using detectable drugs in the weeks prior to a seasons start to avoid getting caught.

Board member Liz Downing, of Homer, was more approving of a program.

She told the board she had recently had a conversation with a member of a task force launched by the district last spring to look at the issue.

She said that person reported to her that some students are calling for testing.

"They want the testing as an out, a way to say, 'Oh no, I can't go that party or do the drugs because I'm an athlete,'" she said.

Downing said she saw a need for the district to give students some type of "out."

"I'm not sure what that might be but if we focus on giving students a way, a fake drug test, I don't care, but students need the tools besides 'just say no,'" she said.

Assistant Superintendent Sean Dusek said the district did not have an estimate for the cost of the program, but did say that testing could occur in up to 14 schools, would require dedicated space and also would require the presence of an administrator.

Dusek reported to the board that the administration is planning a meeting in November to re-examine education and prevention programs already in place.

Additionally he said they also plan to work with student leadership on substance abuse issues.

Dusek said that thus far there have been eight incidences in schools in the first quarter that were drug or alcohol related, which, if extrapolated across the year, would put the district on pace to have 32 all year.

"That would be the fourth year that we've had a decline in incidences in schools and that's important to point out because that is one of the indicators that we need to take a close look at," Dusek said.

The board also listened to legal advice provided by Stone.

Stone told the board that along with the legal framework for the testing, they will need to consider the infrastructure and budgetary concessions necessary to conduct tests and whether there is community support for such a program.

One of the recommendations of the task force was to hold community meetings to gather potential anecdotal evidence on the problem.

Stone noted, too, that the Alaska Supreme Court has not yet looked at student drug testing. So, any district or school that put a policy in place won't necessarily know how it would hold up if challenged.

The board called for an administrative recommendation on how to proceed with the issue at the next meeting.

Equipment fund policy addressed

The board also approved a change in the way the district manages a fund that came under scrutiny from the Borough Assembly during the budget cycle last spring.

At that time, several members of the Borough Assembly questioned the use and maintenance of the district's Equipment Reserve Fund.

The proposed changes to the fund are in part a response to recent changes in governmental accounting standards, assembly criticism and a measure to safeguard its future.

The board approved dedicating 20 percent of the interest from their General Fund, which would range from $200,000 to $250,000 a year, as the revenue source for the Equipment Fund.

The policy also establishes an annual application process for which buildings and departments could apply for funds to replace needed equipment.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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