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Drug test policy gets new provision

| Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Students who test positive for the first time under the proposed Seneca Valley School District drug and alcohol testing policy for students involved in sports or who seek campus parking passes now would be permitted to have their records expunged if they stay clean for 12 consecutive months.

Under a major revision to the proposed policy, school board members voted Monday to add a provision that would permit students to graduate with a clean record if they agree to submit to 12 consecutive urine analyses after initially testing positive and undergo 40 hours of drug counseling. Parents of the student would be responsible for the cost of the monthly tests. The 14-day suspension from sporting activities would remain in effect and student drivers would lose parking privileges for 14 days.

That was one of a few major changes school directors made to the proposed policy Monday.

The board also changed the punishment for a second-time offender. The earlier version of the policy required a 28-day suspension from the sport in which the student was involved. Under the revision, student athletes would be barred from playing for one full calendar year. Student drivers would be prohibited from parking at the school campus for the same period.

The penalty for a third offense would remain permanent suspension from sports, said Matt McKinley, Seneca Valley Senior High School principal. Student drivers permanently would lose parking privileges.

The board also moved up its proposed third reading of the policy to July 17, which means the policy would be final if approved on that date. It agreed to increase funding for the random drug testing throughout the year to cover not only student athletes but any student who has purchased a parking pass at the secondary school campus.

McKinley said after the provision allowing expunging was approved that a student who tests positive during that process automatically would void the chance of having the record expunged but that it would not count as a second violation of the drug and alcohol policy.

The board passed that change on a 6-3 vote, with directors Eileen M. Conners, who sat on the committee of board members and administrators that crafted the changes, Robert J. Hill Jr. and William F. Paul dissenting.

Noting that her comments could be construed as being too harsh by parents, Conners nonetheless said the district, providing the rehabilitative option, was "in a place where we don't belong."

"It's an oxymoron. We should give it back to the parents and kids (to rehabilitate) and get on with the business of educating the children," she said.

But board Vice President Jeff L. Widdowson, who also sat on the committee, said the policy was redesigned to "be rehabilitative in nature and get students the help and guidance that is needed" so they will not be drug abusers.

In addition, the board voted unanimously to increase the funding for the random drug tests to $40,000 from the original $25,000 it had appropriated in the 2002-03 budget recently passed. The additional funding will be earmarked for random testing of high school students who purchase parking passes and were added to the proposed policy, which initially was limited to student-athletes.

Last year, more than 600 students purchased parking passes, McKinley said.

As for hardship cases, Seneca Valley Athletic Director Terry Henry said sport booster organizations have indicated they will pay for students whose families are unable to pick up the cost.

The board also agreed to move up the third reading of the policy from August to July 17 in order to give the administration enough time to contract with a vendor and begin testing. As a result, McKinley recommended and the board approved a general information meeting for parents for July 30.

The meetings on July 17 and 30 are scheduled for 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the senior high school, along Seneca School Road.

McKinley said passage of the policy had to be pushed up because many fall sports begin practice no later than mid-August. In addition to student drivers, who must pass the test before obtaining a parking permit, McKinley said students participating in football, cheerleading, cross country and soccer and any fall club sports will need to be tested.

He estimated that initial test will involve between 800 and 1,000 students. An accurate count cannot be made currently because some student-athletes also will apply for parking permits.

Once tested initially, students' names then will be thrown into the pool for weekly, random testing. McKinley estimated that between 30 and 35 students will be tested each week.

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