Proposed drug testing of Duchesne County students tabled due to funding question

Funding programs a problem for other high schools, too

Published: Thursday, March 8 2012 9:00 p.m. MST

In Utah, 18 of the 41 public school districts and four of the 49 charter schools have some type of drug testing program for students, according to information provided to the Utah State Office of Education at the end of the 2010-11 academic year.

Those districts include Box Elder, Cache, Murray, Ogden, Rich, Uintah and Weber, the state office said.

The Granite School District discontinued its random testing policy this year because the federal grant that funded the program expired, said spokesman Ben Horsley.

"We've had to cut $53 million in programs over the past three years," Horsley said, adding that randomly screening students for drugs "wasn't a high enough priority" to justify funding.

If the district were to reinstate the program using its own money, Horsley said, it would likely include testing for performance enhancing drugs, in addition to drugs like marijuana, methamphetamines and cocaine.

"I think we'd be looking for something a little more comprehensive," he said.

The Murray City School District screens student-athletes for illegal street drugs as well as steroids, said district spokeswoman D. Wright.

Seven student-athletes are randomly selected for testing each month, Wright said. Five take a "five-panel test," which screens for use of amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates and PCP. The other two are tested for steroids.

Each five-panel test costs the district $25 and each steroid test costs $100, Wright said. The total cost of the program runs between $5,000 and $6,000 each year.

The Duchesne district considered testing for steroids, Guymon said, but ultimately discarded the idea.

"That's extremely cost prohibitive," he said, "and, honestly, I'm not aware of any concerns that have come up with performance enhancers."

The primary purpose of the proposed program is to ensure that students participating in sports and extracurricular activities are safe, Guymon said.

"If kids know, 'Hey, there's a chance that I'm going to be tested and I want to participate,' hopefully that'll give them a little more motivation to stay clean," he said.

The Duchesne County School Board is expected to revisit the proposed policy when it meets next on April 12.

Are random drug tests at schools effective?

47 percent of students reported having ever used illicit drugs before leaving high school

72 percent of students reported having ever used alcohol before leaving high school

17 percent of students who were randomly screened said they used drugs in the past 30 days

22 percent of students who were not randomly screened said they used drugs in the past 30 days

34 percent of students in schools with random testing said they would likely us drugs

alcohol in the next year

33 percent of students in schools without random testing said they would likely use drugs

alcohol in the next year

SOURCE: U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences "The Effectiveness of Mandatory Random Student Drug Testing," 2010

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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