School official says drug testing a deterrent

Published 5:58 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

By Staff
All athletes at two schools tested so far
Staff Writer
After testing every student athlete at two Beaufort County high schools, school officials say the tests are working as a deterrent to student drug use.
The school system tested every athlete at Washington High School on Jan. 3 — the first day of school after Christmas break. About a week ago, the same procedure was used to test athletes at Northside High School. Joe Tkach, Beaufort County School athletic director, said the number of students testing positive for drug use in both schools was “very, very low.”
The Beaufort County Board of Education adopted a drug testing policy in September 2004 that requires every athlete to sign a form consenting to random drug testing. The policy was revised in June 2005. The policy applies to students in grades seven through 12 who voluntarily participate in athletics. The students’ parents or guardians must also sign the form.
The policy states that “based on the (school system’s) budget, a contracted test administrator will randomly select approximately 1 percent (but not less than 3 students per school) of the students subject to testing at each school 10 times per school year on a random schedule.”
But, the test administered at Washington High School in January was anything but random. On the first day students returned to school after the winter holiday, every athlete was asked to come to short a meeting in the gym. When the about 300 students arrived, they learned they would all be drug tested.
School board Chairman Robert Belcher said Tuesday the same method of testing was used at Northside. About 200 students were tested there, according to Tkach.
The diversion from the school board’s adopted policy of random testing was based on the price of testing and to send a clear reminder of the athlete’s pledge to stay clean, according to Tkach.
If a student tests positive or refuses to take a drug test, random or otherwise, he or she is automatically suspended from athletics for 365 calendar days. Upon successful completion of a drug-abuse assessment course the student is allowed to return to athletics if the student submits to subsequent testing. There is no academic penalty for testing positive on a drug test, according to the school system’s policy.
The school system’s policy allows tests for PCP, cocaine, marijuana, barbiturates, opiates and benzodiazepines.
Tkach said tests are rarely if ever administered for alcohol because it does not remain in a student’s system for long. He also said the school system does not regularly test for steroid use because the tests costs about $130 each.
The school system contracted with Morehead City-based Professional Nursing to administer the tests at both schools, according to Tkach. Calls to the company seeking the cost of a tests were not returned Wednesday. Tkach did not know the cost.
Superintendent Jeff Moss, who is out of town at a conference, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Parents, teachers and school administrators can request a test be administered to a student athlete based on suspicious behavior, Tkach said. In that regard, the option of drug testing gives parents another tool to keep their children on track and off drugs.