Students who drive to school, play sports, or take part in extracurricular activities in the Ocean Springs School District could be randomly selected for drug and alcohol testing. Administrators are working on the district's first ever drug testing policy.
The proposal spells out which students could be affected, the testing procedures, and the consequences if they test positive for drugs or alcohol. School leaders say the policy is not meant to punish students, but rather to prevent, educate, and help save lives.
Choir classes seem to be big hit at Ocean Springs High School. JROTC, band, and sports are also popular. And a quick glance around the parking lot revealed many students drive to school. But students could lose those privileges, if they test positive for drugs or alcohol.
"We feel it's time for us to have a random drug testing policy to really push towards making sure there's early detection and also prevention," said Ocean Springs Schools Superintendent Dr. Bonita Coleman-Potter. "We're testing for prescription, as well as non-prescription drugs. Those non-prescription drugs that currently have a lot of street value, of course, spice, marijuana, cocaine."
With help from a research team, administrators drafted a policy that would affect not only Ocean Springs High School, but also the middle school.
"We want to start early so our children understand the absolute detriments of drug use, and we want to make sure that they're not using. And if they are, we help them free themselves from these drugs," said Coleman-Potter.
Students who participate in extracurricular activities, take driver's education classes, or drive and park on campus would be subject to a random drug or alcohol test.
"For alcohol, there will be breathalyzer tests. And then for those non-prescription or prescription drugs, we'll actually have a urine sample test," said Potter.
Students who initially test positive would have to undergo a follow-up test. If it's positive again, those students would be suspended from participation in extracurricular programs. In order to return to those activities, they'll have to complete a drug counseling or education program at their parent's expense, and another drug test must come back clean.
"If it gives one student an excuse to turn away the peer pressure that they can't do a certain drug or illicit situation, because they could possibly be drug tested, then I think it's well served," said Ocean Springs High Principal David Baggett. "It's to raise awareness not only for the staff and the students here, but also the parents at home too, who most of the time never would have thought their children were involved in drugs or alcohol."
"It is our belief that we want to save our children from drug use. We think this policy is a wonderful step in the right direction in terms of being aggressive about preventive measures and we want our children to understand that we will be very firm when it comes to this policy," said Coleman-Potter.
"It cannot be something that we accept in this community and put our heads in the sand. We have to know that it happens and we have to deal with it," she added.
The Ocean Springs School District is seeking public comments on the policy. The school board is expected to vote on it in March. If it passes, random drug testing would start in the 2014-2015 school year.
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