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Board approves athlete drug testing

By NEESEY PAYNE

neesey@southwesttimes.com

It was an issue that sparked quite a discussion among members of Pulaski County School Board. Should students-athletes in Pulaski County be subject to random drug-testing? The answer is, yes.

Dr. Thomas Brewster, superintendent, recommended the board allow the school system to implement the policies, practices and procedures for testing student-athletes at the beginning of the spring semester. He said seeing the policy in action before the start of a new school year would allow time for board members to review the “impact of the policy” and make adjustments as they see fit.

Board members unanimously approved the recommendation, along with minor verbiage adjustments made to the school system’s standards of conduct, substance abuse policy, and student handbook.

At an earlier meeting, board member Joe Guthrie expressed opposition to implementation of a drug-testing policy, saying he had “philosophical issues” with the drug policies presented. Following the vote he explained why he conceded his support.

Guthrie said although his ideal policy would be one in which “all students would be equally subject to drug testing, that is not possible under the legal restrictions we have now. He was happy with Brewster’s recommendation to review the policy – citing that as a major reason he chose not to object.

Guthrie believes it’s imperative for parents, students and the community to realize the school system is not enacting the drug-testing policies because there is a specific problem with athletes using drugs. Guthrie said “that’s the extent the policy allows us” through participation in athletics being a privilege and not a right.

“Every school district anywhere in this day in age and for the past 40 years has had an issue of students who could be using drugs at their schools. That’s not to say we have any reason to believe that we have an issue of drug use with our athletes more so than any other student. I believe it’s probably the opposite. The difference is we’re being proactive about implementing a testing policy,” he said.

Guidelines for drug testing student athletes

• Students in sixth through 12th grades who participate in any Virginia High School League (VHSL)-sanctioned, extra-curricular, competitive activity, including the One-Act Theatre Festival and Scholastic Bowl will be subject to drug testing.

• Athletes and their parents/guardians must sign a student-athlete pledge, agreeing to random drug tests, in order to participate in VHSL athletics.

• First-time violators of the policy will be suspended for 20 percent of the total number of VHSL contests for each sport played during the regular season.

• A second violation will result in suspension of 50 percent of the total number of contests.

• Athletes who commit a third violation will no longer be permitted to participate in VHSL sports while enrolled in Pulaski County Public Schools.

• Ten percent of athletes from each sports team will be tested at random.

• A third party administrator will be responsible for conducting tests, which will be performed by collecting a urine sample.

• If found guilty of a drug violation, a medical review officer (doctor of toxicology) will review the case.

• A student must test negative for illicit drugs before being permitted to participate in sporting activities.

• Test results will remain confidential and will not be placed in the student’s cumulative records.