By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 15, 2016) — Stephenville ISD took the next step toward adopting a drug testing policy for high school students participating in extracurricular activities Monday evening.
Two residents spoke in favor of the drug protesting during a public hearing on the matter as part of the regular monthly meeting Monday evening at Bond Auditorium. Because it is a policy change, a public hearing is required before trustees can vote. The testing policy will be an action item on the agenda for the Sept. 19 meeting, and testing could begin as early as October, according to superintendent Matt Underwood.
Laurie Gillispie, a parent of former district students and an employee of the Erath County District Attorney’s office, pleaded with trustees to pass the measure.
“Talking to parents and teachers and students, we have a drug problem. The issue is what are we willing to do about it?” began Gillispie. “If we can stop that while they’re in high school so the can go on to become productive citizens and not go down that road, I think we need to do that.”
Gillespie agrees with superintendent Matt Underwood that communication and prevention should come before removal of students from extracurricular programs.
“When they are tested, if they do not pass the drug test, I’m not saying we should just throw them out,” said Gillispie. “They need help. Drugs can ruin lives, they can ruin families. If we can help these kids by giving them a reason to say no…because they know they are being drug tested; if we can stop one kid from going down that road, it’s worth it.
“We can bury our head in the sand and say it doesn’t exist, but that’s not the thing to do,” she added. ‘the thing to do is to admit, yes, we have a problem. What are we going to do about it?”
Mitch Holstein said he has a couple kids in the district and is in favor of drug screening. His only concern was why all students, not just those in extracurricular activities, aren’t being tested.
Underwood answered the concern, citing legal issues.
“I get that question quite often from the community…the answer is every child is guaranteed (by law) a free local education without any kind of search or seizure,” the superintendent said. “You do get to neglect that right when you sign up for an extracurricular activity because you agree to go above and beyond the base expectations…We can not legally test a student just for going to school.”
Underwood has said that approximately 90 percent of Stephenville High School students are in some form of extracurricular activity, and his plan calls for a “comprehensive way to increase the odds a student will be tested, so it increases the odds they don’t take that chance.”
Underwood said some schools test every extracurricular participant at the beginning of the school year. While he does not believe that is cost effective for Stephenville, he is proposing that one-third of all extracurricular students be selected at random during the fall, winter and spring seasons, in addition to the regularly scheduled random tests.
A draft of the policy is included with Monday’s board agenda packet, but Underwood emphasized it is a draft only, and noted that soccer will be added to the list of extracurricular activities eligible for testing before a final draft is published and submitted for board approval.
The policy can be viewed through the Stephenville ISD website here: https://goo.gl/Ajii8t