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School system may return to drug testing
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After several years with no random drug testing of Warren County students, the School Board has voted on changes to the school system policy manual that could reinstate random testing for students involved in extracurricular activities and in certain other circumstances.
The move will be a part of a broad reassessment of drug testing within the school system involving students, teachers and employees.
Any student participating in voluntary extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs, may be subject to random drug testing.
The policy manual changes have passed on first read and will be subjected to a second read vote at the next School Board meeting.
Outgoing Director of Schools Dr. Jerry Hale says the testing won’t go into effect until July because money has to be put in the budget to pay for the testing, which could amount to over $100,000. Random drug testing would then go into effect for the 2012-13 school year, if the policy change passes on second read.
Hale says Durham School Services currently conducts drug tests on bus drivers, and Hale says teachers can be drug tested under certain circumstances.
“Under the collective bargaining agreement, there is a clause in the contract that does allow drug testing based on reasonable suspicion,” Hale said. “That contract expires at the end of June so that’s something the board will have to look at.”
At the most recent School Board meeting, Hale addressed the new policy which has been drawn up using criteria developed by the Tennessee School Board Association.
“We used to do random drug testing,” Hale told the board. “But you’ll remember the Attorney General issued an opinion three or four years ago that the Tennessee Constitution, and the statutes as well, did not allow that, even though the Supreme Court had recently ruled that it could be done. That’s when we stopped it based on his opinion.”
The local policy has been revamped per the standards set out by the Tennessee School Board Association.
“This is a newer version of the policy that we have now,” said school system attorney Robyn Phillips. “This one was revamped completely by the TSBA. It follows directly the language of the statute, which is TCA 49-6-4213. There are specific requirements for drug testing and the drug testing policy.”
Phillips went on to say drug testing could only be done in certain instances and only if set legal standards are met. Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-4213 states drug testing can be done if:
• A particular student has violated school policy;
• The test will yield evidence of the violation of school policy, or will establish a student either was impaired due to drug use, or did not use drugs;
• The test is in pursuit of legitimate interests of the school in maintaining order, discipline, safety, supervision and education of students;
• The test is not conducted for the sole purpose of discovering evidence to be used in a criminal prosecution;
• Tests shall be conducted in the presence of a witness. Persons who shall act as witnesses shall be designated in the policy of the local Board of Education.
The term “drugs” means any scheduled drug and includes alcohol.