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Davis adopts random drug testing policy for its high schools

Published: Tuesday, April 16 2013 7:32 p.m. MDT

Coach Soulivanh Phongsavath with his soccer team as Davis High School warms up before playing Brighton High March 19, 2013, in Kaysville. The Davis School Board on Tuesday approved a new drug-testing policy that applies only to students involved in extracurricular activities such as athletics and student government.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

BOUNTIFUL — Students in Davis County will be subject to random drug tests beginning this fall after the Davis School Board on Tuesday adopted a policy aimed at deterring the use of illegal and prohibited substances.

The drug testing policy applies only to students involved in extracurricular activities like athletics, cheerleading and student government and allows each high school in the district to randomly test up to five students each week. Students who test positive will be required to sit out games or other activities, but the tests will not result in criminal action or punitive measures such as expulsion.

"I think we have to support the coaches, the parents and the people who are in the trenches who have brought this to our attention," Board President Tamara Lowe said while casting her supporting vote. "I think it will be a deterrent — and a welcome deterrent for some of our students."

The policy was adopted in a 4-2 vote that largely mirrored the preliminary vote taken by the board during its meeting last month. Each board member was allowed an opportunity to explain their vote, with several saying that they had personally discussed the topic with educators and parents, who were largely supportive of the policy.

"I’ve talked to friends and neighbors," said board member Kathie Bone. "They are very aware of the issues in the schools."

Board members Larry Smith and David Lovato voted against the policy, both echoing concerns they raised during last month's meeting. Smith said that he would support the actions taken by the board, but suggested the policy could be revisited in the future to assess its efficacy or to add voluntary opt-in provisions.

Lovato described the drug testing as an unnecessary and redundant addition to existing district policy and state law. He also took issue with administering the tests to only a select segment of the student population.

"It does not protect and apply to all students in a fair and equitable matter," he said. "This policy will only randomly drug test about 10 percent of the student body."

John Robison, the district's athletic director and a member of the committee that drafted the policy, said his office will coordinate the testing with administrators at each of the district's eight high schools and an independent agency will be contracted with to conduct the sampling and analysis.

The policy is patterned after what is being done by other school districts, he said, and the drafting committee also worked with administrators, coaches and parents in researching the random drug testing. 

"This isn’t like a brand new deal that somebody dreamed up," he said. "It’s pretty much tried and proven throughout those who have been involved in it."

He said the district received relatively little negative feedback from the community and those who expressed concerns with the drug testing were largely opposed to limiting the policy to students in extracurricular activities.

Athletics was determined to be the area with the most frequent instances of substance abuse, according to Robison, who added that the school board could extend drug testing to the entire student population in the future if it sees fit to do so. 

"The majority of people who expressed some concern did so in response to performance-enhancing drugs," he said. "In every group we talked to, the indication was they were strongly of the opinion that we indeed had a problem."

District spokesman Chris Williams said the district received roughly 50 emails regarding the drug testing policy since it was first presented to the board. Of those, he said the majority were supportive of the policy.

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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