“In my personal experience from working in other districts that did have a policy like this one, this program is here to help kids, not hurt them. As a district, we want to see our students succeed. Drug abuse, without a doubt, limits their ability to do that.” — Superintendent Steve Richards
Statewide, more than 80 percent of Missouri’s public high schools test students involved in extracurricular activities for drug use.
Seymour High School wasn’t one of them.
Now it is.
In a decision made last Thursday at the regular monthly meeting of the Seymour R-II Board of Education, Seymour High School — beginning with the upcoming 2019-20 school year — will test students in grades nine through 12 who are involved in extracurricular activities for drugs through Tomo Drug Testing of Springfield, the company that currently conducts similar testing of the school’s bus drivers.
“The board unanimously voted in favor of implementing this new program,” Superintendent Steve Richards explained Monday. “This testing isn’t for all students ... just those who are involved in extracurricular activities.”
Richards noted that extracurricular activities include any athletics, clubs or organizations.
He added that “students who drive to school” also are included in the testing.
“Driving to school is a privilege,” Richards said. “We want for students who are bringing their vehicles on school property to not be under the influence of drugs.”
He said the school district was considering the new drug-testing policy before he took over as superintendent on July 1.
“(Seymour High School Principal) Jason Duey has taken the lead on this initiative, which I feel is a good one,” Richards said. “We’re joining most high schools in Missouri in conducting a random testing program.”
What will be tested?
Per the school’s new policy, samples shall be tested for but not limited to cocaine, marijuana, amphetamine, methamphetamine, opiates, phencyclidine (PCP), benzodiazepines (such as Xanax), barbiturates, oxycodone, methadone and propoxyphene. Samples also will be screened for prohibited alcohol use.
Testing will occur monthly.
“It will be a random selection of eight to 10 students each month,” Richards said.
Testing will be conducted via urine samples.
Richards stressed that punishment isn’t the goal.
“The goal is to get these students help,” he said.
“In my personal experience from working in other districts that did have a policy like this one, this program is here to help kids, not hurt them. As a district, we want to see our students succeed. Drug abuse, without a doubt, limits their ability to do that.”
He added, “If our kids in the high school make a mistake with drugs, they can get the help they need.”
For a first offense, any Seymour High School student who tests positive in testing will be suspended from extracurricular activities for 20 days and must pass a drug test before resuming extracurriculars.
“A violation doesn’t result in an out-of-school suspension,” Richards explained. “It does result in getting the student help.”
As an alternative on the first offense, a student may have his or her suspension from extracurriculars reduced to 10 days, provided they receive and be enrolled in substance-abuse counseling from an alcohol- or drug-abuse agency that is certified by the state. Parents/guardians are responsible for all costs association with the counseling.
“Both the school’s administration and board are in full agreement that the top priority is to help the student if there is a violation,” Richards said.
The punishment for a second violation is suspension for 90 days from extracurricular activities. Again, there is an option for a reduced penalty of 60 days if the student enters professional drug treatment.
Richards said parents and students at the high school will be notified soon after Aug. 1 of the new drug testing.
Duey will be the one heading the notification process.
“We want to partner with our parents and students in this new program,” he concluded.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an increase both locally and nationally of drug abuse with teenagers. And we want to ensure that our high-school student body isn’t involved in the abuse of alcohol and drugs.”