The group approved a policy change on first reading that would establish a committee to develop random drug test procedures for high school athletes and participants in extracurricular activities, which would be reviewed by the district’s attorney before final approval from the board.
Chuck Whitlock, Wilson County Schools health services supervisor, said the district has discussed a random drug test policy for about two years and was born from concerns from high school administrators.
“We’ve not seen a significant uptick in drug use or possession on campus, but there is concern for the safety of our kids outside of school,” Whitlock said. “The national opioid crisis is highlighted in the news almost daily, and the sad truth is that Tennessee is one of the worst states in the nation regarding opioid use.”
Whitlock noted opioid deaths in Tennessee have more than doubled in the last five years, but said the policy is not strictly about opioids.
“Beyond opioids, the other usual suspects in the world of illicit drugs can still be found in our communities,” he said.
Whitlock said the district and high school administrators are determined to help three kinds of students: students that don’t use or would never use illicit drugs; students that may be on the fence regarding illicit drug use; and students who have initiated illicit drug use.
No student who tests positive under the random drug test program would be suspended or expelled from school solely as the result of a positive test. Whitlock highlighted the Tennessee attorney general’s opinion on random drug testing of students stipulates that it should be rehabilitative in nature.
“We have [Students Taking a Right Stand] counselors in each of our high schools and they already serve as our student assistance program. They can assess a student’s use and provide a series of follow up counseling session during the school day,” Whitlock said. “Another great aspect of STARS involvement is that their school-based services are free to the families. These services paired with communication with parents will hopefully provide a path for these students to get back on track.”
The district would like to have random drug testing policy and procedures in place prior to the 2018-2019 school year, but there remains a chance it would not be in place, according to Whitlock.
“The policy must pass the second reading and then the committee has the supporting procedures to develop. Once the procedures are developed, our attorney needs to time to review and then the board needs to approve,” Whitlock said. “There’s a lot to do and a small window.”