A lot of the kids that got tested weren’t on prescription drugs, so it wasn’t a big deal to them, but to me it was a big deal. —Kayla Berryman
SYRACUSE — Kayla Berryman said she didn't think twice about signing a random drug testing waiver at the start of the high school cross-country season last fall.
"I figured I didn’t have anything to hide," she said. "I’m not a drug user."
Berryman, who recently graduated from Syracuse High School, said she was selected for a drug test in October. When the test came back positive, she was told she would not be able to run her final race of the season.
"I was on some medications that read for a false positive, and even though I told them which medications I was on, they still pulled me out of the bus and told me I couldn’t run in the race that day," she said.
Berryman was eventually allowed to participate in the race with her teammates. But she said the experience was upsetting to her and her parents, and she worries about other students being subjected to similar treatment.
"I felt like I was accused. It didn’t feel right to me," she said. "I do not believe it’s a positive thing to have in our schools."
Davis School District adopted a random drug testing policy last year with the goal of deterring students from using illegal substances. The policy applies only to students involved in student government and extracurricular activities and is designed to be non-punitive by limiting participation without involving law enforcement or affecting a student's academic standing.
Last month, the Davis School Board heard a report on the first year of testing, with several board members relaying positive feedback they had received from parents, educators and students.
During the 2013-14 school year, the district administered 1,373 drug tests, with 29 tests coming back positive.
John Robison, the Davis School District healthy lifestyles curriculum supervisor, said he could not discuss the specifics of Berryman's participation in drug testing because of student privacy laws.
He said that when tests come back positive for prescription compounds, the tests are reviewed and the student's parents are contacted to verify that the student holds a valid prescription and is not exceeding prescribed doses.
That review, Robison said, can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a day, and because of that delay, the policy states that students be allowed to continue participating in activities while their test is verified.
"That’s the protocol that we should follow," he said, "and if we don’t follow it, then we’ve made an error."
Robison acknowledged there was an incident when the policy was not followed, which resulted in some frustration on the part of a student and their parents.
He said district officials implemented a number of changes as a result of that incident and have continued to seek feedback from school administrators throughout the year.
"That was a big learning experience," Robison said. "We realized that we handled it poorly."
Berryman said she didn't hear much about the tests from her peers at school, but she added that the conditions that led to her positive test are not commonplace.
"A lot of the kids that got tested weren’t on prescription drugs," she said, "so it wasn’t a big deal to them, but to me it was a big deal."
Berryman said she received an apology letter from the district's administration, but she'd like to see the drug testing policy repealed. She said the tests are an unnecessary disruption for students, especially if they can't be relied on for accurate results.
"I feel like this is something that is going to happen to another student, and it was not a pleasant experience, and I just want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else," Berryman said.
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