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April 13, 2014

City schools reworking drug testing policy

Feedback poll live, updated policy could be approved soon

After putting the implementation of a student drug testing policy on hold due to push back from some parents last month, the Cullman City Schools board now hopes to make some changes and have the policy in place in the coming weeks.

The policy was originally supposed to go into effect weeks ago, but the board slowed plans following a series of public meetings that saw some parents express concerns over privacy, fairness and potential false-positives. The board is currently seeking additional input via an online poll at the district’s official website (http://www.cullmancats.net).

The policy, a version of which has been drafted for almost eight years but never implemented, applies to all students involved in extracurricular programs or who drive to school, and sets out three tiers of punishments for students who fail drug screenings — including community service and eventual dismissal from the applicable extracurricular activity. Students would not be suspended from school, only their extracurricular activities. Testing would only apply to students who drive or participate in extracurriculars.

Feedback indicated some parents believed the first tier of punishment, which included the suspension from extracurriculars, was too strict, so the board has reworked the policy and removed that requirement, according to an excerpt used in the online poll.

Superintendent Dr. Doreen Griffeth said that tweak came in the wake of those initial stakeholder meetings.

“We adjusted some violation consequences and tried to listen to that feedback,” she said. “There have been some adjustments made.”

Griffeth said the board is preparing a new draft of the policy, which will be sent out soon to the system’s policy review committee.

Officials say they hope the policy will serve as a deterrent to drug use among students, as it would require a counseling session with Cullman Mental Health for students who fail a test. The new draft could be introduced later this month for approval, and the board has previously planned to roll it out to all extracurricular activities next school year.

The previous draft of the policy stated the initiative is a way to allow students to “demonstrate the character and leadership traits which they should possess.” The main objectives outline a need to maintain a drug-free campus, discourage drug use, reduce incidents of potential injury and protect the reputation of the school system.

Drug tests will be given at random to students involved with extracurricular activities or who drive to school. A drug screening release form will be required for students who wish to do either.

In the original draft, if a student failed one drug screening, he/she would be suspended from participation for 10 percent of the season; required to complete an alcohol/drug assessment program; required to complete 25 hours of school/community service and must receive a negative screening for readmittance.

If a student failed two drug screenings, he/she would be dismissed from competition for the remainder of the season; the student and parents must complete mandatory drug counseling; the student must complete 50 hours of community/school service; and must have a negative screening for readmittance.

If a student failed three drug screenings, he/she would be suspended from participation indefinitely, or for a period of time determined by the administrator.

Until the new draft is formally introduced, it’s unknown exactly how many punishment levels have been adjusted.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.

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