Changes to AHS drug testing policy discussed

Changes to Atlanta High School’s drug testing policies for students were discussed during last week’s meeting of the AISD Board of Trustees.
The discussion came during a review by campus principals of changes to their respective student handbooks in effect for the 2017-2018 school year.
Atlanta High School Principal Nancy Rinehart told board members that one upcoming change has to do with student parking, as relates to random drug testing.
“We are going to include it in the random drug testing if they’re going to be parking on campus,” Rinehart said. “When they apply for their sticker, then they will fill out the form that they will be in the random pool for the drug testing.
“That’s something new -- that’s a change.”
Trustee Keri Richardson said, “I think that’s very good.”
AISD Superintendent Sidney Harrist expanded a bit on the matter of on-campus parking. “They won’t park if they don’t get a parking sticker,” he said.
The parking changes related to random drug testing are part of a larger set of changes to the school’s drug testing policy, which will focus more now on random screenings.
“In the past, we’ve done where, anyone who participates in anything throughout the year, in extracurricular, has to do an up-front drug test screening -- and then we just did a few randoms throughout the year,” Rinehart said. “The students knew when they were going to be drug tested that way. 
“They had the summer, they could prepare. …”
Harrist explained that during random drug tests, five to 10 percent of the students eligible for the screening would be involved.
“Of the ones that you can (test) -- which is the people that are in extracurricular activity or … parking. You can’t have a policy that you can test everybody.”
Rinehart stated that in past years up to 86 percent of the student population has been tested. A high percentage of students participate in extracurriculars. Adding those involved due to on-campus parking will bump the number close to 90 percent, Rinehart estimated.
“We did some research. A lot of schools now … will do the randoms like five times a year, and you can do more sampling, and the students aren’t going to know when it is. So that would encourage them to stay drug free.
“We test more of our student population this way, and we felt it would encourage students to say ‘no’ to drugs.”
“In the research, that’s what we talked about changing and that’s what the new drug testing policy reflects.”
Richardson said, “I think it is so smart to do that, because like you said, the ‘up-front’ is not doing any good at all.”
If students are caught on-campus under the influence, or with drugs on them, there are punitive steps taken, Rinehart explained. If a test reveals drug use that occurred off-campus, they would be prohibited from participating in activities for a period of 30 days.
“We’re not disciplining them from what they do on a Friday night,” Rinehart said. “We’re disciplining them for what they do at school.”
Changes to the primary, elementary and middle school handbooks were also briefly reviewed.
Harrist said of changes to the various handbooks, “Most all the changes to the campus one and district one (handbooks) was just changing language that TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) sent us.”

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