Benton board votes to change drug policy

Benton School Board voted unanimously on Monday to amend the district's drug testing policy.

The policy changes were presented by Randy McFarlin, athletic director.

According to McFarlin, the revised policy would allow for random drug testing of all students involved in athletic/spirit groups/band and place a strong emphasis on confidentiality.

The new plan will require all students who wish to participate in sports, spirit groups or band to sign an informed consent form along with their parent or guardian before the student will be eligible to practice or participate in the activity. The form will be filed with the athletic director.

The form will be valid until a parent or guardian requests removal in writing or the student is no longer participating in the activity. All student participants' names will be placed in a testing pool and will be subject to random urinalysis testing throughout the school year.

Medical Laboratories in Little Rock will provide the testing and will arrange a day and time with the athletic director to perform the tests. Participating students selected for random testing shall be chosen from a pool that includes all participating students. A minimum of 10 percent of students from both the junior high and high school pool will be selected to be tested.

Students who are selected will be required to provide a urine sample and the testing will be administered by qualified laboratory staff. Any student selected for random testing who is not in school on the day of testing will be tested at the next testing regime. Any student failing to provide an adequate specimen will be subject to retesting at the next testing regime.

Any student refusing to take the test will be placed on a 30-day suspension from the activity and will be tested at the end of the suspension at the expense of the student's parent or guardian and the student must test negative to return to the activity.

Students who receive a positive test result once will be required to attend a conference with a parent or guardian to discuss the results. The student will be retested at each subsequent random testing day for a minimum of one calendar year from the receipt of the positive test result.

If a second positive result is acquired within any two consecutive calendar years the parent or guardian of the student will be notified and requested to attend a conference to discuss the test results. The student will be immediately suspended from practices, contests and other activities in all competitive athletic/spirit/band activities for a minimum of 30 days.

A letter of intent to remain in any activity will be signed by the student and parent or guardian. To be reinstated in the activity, the student must be retested at the end of the 30-day suspension, receive a negative test result, complete the school drug counseling program approved by the athletic director and receive verification of all sanction requirements by the athletic director. The student also will be retested at each subsequent testing for a minimum of one year.

If a third positive test is acquired within any two consecutive calendar years, the parent or guardian will be notified, the student will be suspended from practices and activities, sign a letter of intent to remain in the activity and participate in all testing regimes for a minimum of one year and receive a negative result at each.

McFarlin said his intent is not just to punish the students. "I want to give them a reason to say 'no,'" McFarlin said.

The board members voted unanimously to waive the 30-day read on the changes and approved the policy and lab that will complete the testing.

The school board members emphasized the importance of passing the changes before the September meeting because athletic programs are starting and they wanted to make sure all students are treated equally.