Altus Public Schools began 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.
Altus Public Schools will hold an informational parent meeting on the student drug-testing program on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 6:30 p.m., in the Altus High School Cafeteria. All students in grades 7-12 who sign up for extra-curricular activities will be drug tested this year before they may participate.
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.
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.