On Saturday morning, Altus Public Schools will begin drug-testing students who participate in extracurricular activities, as part of its new drug testing policy. Like most other schools in Oklahoma, Altus will now be testing students for drugs before they may participate in activities. The new drug-testing policy was approved at the April 2012 meeting of the Altus Board of Education.
The Altus Schools drug-testing policy will require that all students be tested before their sports season or activity begins, and then a percentage of students will be randomly drug tested during the school year. The school district will pay for the drug testing.
The tests, required without any suspicion of drug use, cover students in grades seven to 12 who sign up for such activities as sports, cheerleading, choir, band, the academic team, and FFA.
A student who refuses to take the test or who tests positive more than twice cannot take part in activities for the rest of the school year. There is no academic sanction for violation of the drug policy.
“This is a preventative policy, not a ‘gotcha,’” said Dr. Mark Haught, Altus High School principal. “We’re hoping to give every kid a reason not to do drugs.” School board member Dr. John Thomas echoed Dr. Haught’s sentiment at the April school board meeting, saying, “Our goal is to keep drugs off the campus, which is a noble goal.”
The intentions behind the policy include educating students of the harmful side effects of drug use, preventing injury, and providing students with drug free practices, competitions, and school activities. Altus Public Schools officials hope that the drug-testing program will serve as a deterrent, giving students a reason to resist peer pressure to take drugs. Drug testing can also identify adolescents who already have drug problems, so they may be referred for treatment. Drug abuse not only interferes with a student’s ability to learn, but it can also disrupt the teaching environment, affecting other students as well, said Dr. Haught.
The first group of students tested in Altus will be the athletes participating in fall sports, in grades seven through 12. These students will have their initial drug tests at the same time as their athletics physicals, which are set for Saturday, Aug. 4, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Southwest Technology Center. Local physicians have volunteered to do the athletics physicals, and the urine drug tests will be conducted by SelectForce, Inc.
Students participating in non-athletic fall semester activities will have their drug tests conducted at a later date, but during the first few weeks of school.
Before the first round of drug testing takes place on Saturday with the athletes, there will be an informational parent meeting to explain the new program and the reasoning behind it. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m., today at the AHS Auditorium.
An additional parent meeting over the drug-testing program, aimed at the parents of students who are in non-athletic extra-curricular activities, will be held on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 6:30 p.m., at the AHS Cafeteria.
Parental support for the new drug-testing policies has been strong, according to the Altus principals. Students have also been pushing for such a proactive measure, and the parent meetings will be a good time for parents to have any remaining questions answered.