Edmond Public Schools will soon begin random drug tests for high school students who participate in extracurricular activities.
The district chose this group of students, instead of a broader approach, for two main reasons, said Jason Brown, the district's executive director of secondary education.
For one, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled schools can drug-test students who participate in extracurricular activities. Secondly, Brown said, these students are leaders and are held to a higher standard.
“It's a privilege, but with that privilege comes a heightened responsibility,” Brown said. “Obviously, they're going to be looked at as role models and school leaders, and so with that heightened responsibility, we feel they have that responsibility to remain drug- and alcohol-free.”
Edmond Public Schools, the fourth-largest public school district in Oklahoma, has about 22,500 students. Since 2005, the district has suspended 660 students in its middle schools and high schools because of drugs.
The district anticipates spending about $35,000 on testing, which is less than 1 percent of the district's $4 million budget. The test will be performed with a device slipped under the student's tongue.
Edmond's school board and administrators have been working on the policy for the past three years. It was finalized in October and will take effect Jan. 7, the first day of the semester.
Any student who wants to participate in an extracurricular activity must provide a drug testing consent form, signed by the student, a guardian and the coach or sponsor of the activity. If the student refuses to sign the form, he or she cannot participate in the activity.
A company contracting with the school will select students at random using their student ID numbers, Brown said. Under the new policy, if coaches suspect athletes of using performance-enhancing drugs, they can request those athletes undergo drug testing, Brown said.
Addressing drug use
Edmond parent Kelly Batt became interested in seeing a drug testing policy at the district after hearing stories from her daughters, Lauren and Andrea.
When the girls started high school at Edmond North, they would come home and tell Batt about students who were drunk or high at school.
Batt helped organize a forum earlier this year where she and others spoke about drug use among students in the district.
Batt said she supported the policy but hopes the district will take a comprehensive approach to combating drugs in schools.
“It might make a difference to one student if they're caught or involved, but not for the general student body,” Batt said.
The issue is personal to Batt. A group of hunters found Batt's brother, Stephen, dead in an Arizona desert in 1989. Batt said her brother was killed by people associated with his drug problem.
Batt's brother started using drugs as a teen and continued to decline until his death.
“You start out as a child or a young adult or teenager and think, ‘It's not going to affect me,'” Batt said. “You just have no idea what the power of drugs is.”
Edmond Schools isn't the first in the Oklahoma City metro-area to start random drug testing, but policies vary from district to district.
Oklahoma City Public Schools does not have a drug-testing program.
The Mid-Del School District started its random drug testing program in 2007. The district received a three-year federal grant to not only implement the program but also study its effectiveness, spokeswoman Stacey Boyer said.
Since the beginning of the program, the district has tested 2,704 students at its three high schools. Of those tested, 45 students tested positive, Boyer said.
Putnam City Schools doesn't drug test students, but administrators have discussed the possibility, district spokesman Steve Lindley said. Those internal discussions could become more finite in the coming months.
“Will there be a policy of that? Time will tell,” Lindley said. “We view it as something that would help protect the health and safety of students.”
Heritage Hall administrators have been discussing a policy but there isn't a timeline for when a policy might be rolled out, said Will Webb, assistant head of school for external affairs.
Contributing: Staff Writer Carrie Coppernoll