Granite School District athletes will be subject to random drug and alcohol tests this spring.

Tuesday the Granite Board of Education approved a $1.2 million program, funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, in hopes of deterring students from taking illegal drugs.

In addition to the implementation of non-invasive drug and alcohol screenings for high school student athletes, the Granite Upholding Athletes in Resisting Drinking (GUARD) program also includes a health curriculum for high school sophomores designed to give students the tools to say no to illegal substances.

Martin Bates, attorney and assistant to the Granite superintendent, said district officials have received a lot of support for the screening. One supporter is the father of a Skyline football player who was driving under the influence last February and was involved in an accident that killed three people.

In a letter to the Granite Board of Education, the student's father offered his "unconditional support" for the program.

"As tragic as this accident was, it would be even more tragic, if after witnessing and experiencing the heartbreak of this event, we fail to take an action that would limit and discourage teenage drinking when given the opportunity," the letter read. "Drugs and alcohol are not a new phenomenon among high school students. ... Will a testing program put a stop to it? ... No. But this should not be sufficient reason for us to sit on the sidelines and wait for another tragic event to occur. Our youth need help now.

"We have the responsibility as parents and as a community to take control when a problem exists — and a problem most certainly exists," the father wrote.

The GUARD grant provides funding for random drug and alcohol testing for student athletes. Those students chosen would be asked to spit in a cup or suck on a 4-inch piece of paper. The paper changes color if it detects the presence of drugs or alcohol — the test can detect alcohol up to 80 hours after consumption.

Granite is not alone in testing student athletes. According to district leaders, Murray High School has been screening students for drugs for a decade and officials say it has made a positive difference.

"When my son learned of the potential for drugs and alcohol testing by Granite School District he was very encouraged and offered that he wished it would have been implemented sooner," the letter from the Skyline student's father read. "Perhaps it would have helped him."

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