Breaking News: Expanded drug testing begins today

Both athletic and fine art activities will be involved in this year’s screening


Art by Avery Degenhardt

All students in fine art extracurriculars will be included in the drug screenings today.

The first school-mandated drug and alcohol test of the year began today after last year’s testing was ruled a success by Board of Trustees members. The program is expanding this year to include all fine art extracurriculars, such as choir, band, and Majestics, in addition to athletics.

“We really wanted to build a comprehensive program to help our kids be able to give them an added incentive to say no and to choose different choices,” Board President Chad Collins said. “So we decided to pilot it last year [with] the high school athletes, knowing all along that if the pilot went as we thought it would then we would look at expanding it to all extracurricular activities, as well, because not just athletes are tempted or find themselves in environments where drugs are being used.”

Athletic director Jim Bob Puckett said last year, approximately 1,700 tests were administered, and only three students had positive tests. All three were all marijuana-related.

“We did have some positive tests that came back, but part of our program is really to help get education and counseling and things of that nature for students and their parents to help them hopefully stay away from drugs,” Collins said. “But also we know that some drugs are the gateway to even harder drugs, so it can become an even bigger issue in someone’s life. We’re not trying to get or catch people– we are trying to intervene in a way that helps kids say no.”

According to Tom Thompson, the owner and director of  T.H.E Lab, which the district uses as their testing lab, it takes a certain amount of a substance to make a test positive. If students only have a bit of alcohol or a trace of a certain drug in their system, then the test won’t be counted as positive, and they will not be put through the consequences of a positive test that are explained in the contract.

“It’s not a right–[extracurriculars and athletics] are the things that are kind of the icing of the cake of education, if you will,” Puckett said. “If you don’t follow these certain rules, those privileges can be taken away.”

One test last year was administered the Tuesday after the weekend of homecoming. Some students thought this was to catch more people, but it has been confirmed that was not the reason for the timing of the test.

“I guess the administration felt like that was an appropriate day to do the testing. I don’t know if there is a purposeful day or not,” Collins said. “Students are going to be tempted 365 days of the year potentially, so if there is going to be a test, it is going to be during the week. It certainly is a time after homecoming or something like that where I’m sure there are more temptations certain weekends than there are others.”

Puckett said that concerns were expressed about prescription medicine and how they affect the results of the test. Puckett explained that if the test shows up positive for a prescription, then the medical review officer from the testing lab will contact the parents so they may provide written confirmation that the student is actually taking that medicine. The results are saved in their file for future testing.

“The file is very confidential and does not go out to anyone, and no one can go in and pull that information out,” Puckett said. “The privacy was a big concern a year ago. Parents were really concerned with the confidentiality of their student. Whether they were on ADD medicine or any other medication, they were worried it was going to get out, and we didn’t have those issues last year, and we hope not to have them this year as well.”

In order to avoid double-testing, students will be tested with their athletic team if they are also involved in a fine art extracurricular.

“We will test all athletes and all fine arts extracurricular students [all in the same day],” Puckett said. “Say we have a football player or a soccer player who is also in choir or one act play or any fine art– those students will go get tested with their athletic teams, and they won’t get tested again with fine arts. The students will only be tested once, but it will impact both activities depending on the results.”

Senior orchestra student Leslie LaTour said she doesn’t “think it is necessary but can also kind of see why they are doing it.”

“According to what I’ve heard, only a very small percentage of students are using drugs, so I think it is pointless and a waste of money,” LaTour said. “I do sort of see how it could help the students say no, but all-in-all it’s pointless. If they are going to test fine arts and athletes, they might as well test the whole school.”

While LaTour disagrees with the testing, some students feel it is beneficial.

“I think it is important to be tested because it holds athletes to a high standard,” senior Majestic Kiersten Burno said. “I feel that it’s fair since all of the other athletes have to get tested so fine arts should be included. We all compete so we should all get treated the same.”

Puckett wants the students to understand “that this is part of growing up, and we’re the adults, and we are going to help them understand the choice that they made.”

“It’s not an ‘I’m trying to catch you,’” Puckett said. “It’s our job as adults to kind of go back in time and think back [to] what we went through as young adults and the challenges that we were faced with that we’re trying to give all our students here at Lovejoy an out.”