Officials at Wamego Public Schools are weighing a drug testing policy to help limit the number of mistakes students make when it comes to drugs, Superintendent Tim Winter said Wednesday.
The Wamego school board will consider approving a random drug testing policy during its regular meeting on May 8.
“They are going to make mistakes,” Winter said. “We’ve all made mistakes growing up. We just want to limit those as much as possible, and if (they) do make mistakes what can we do to help them get through it so it doesn’t lead to a life of destructive choices.”
But before the meeting, the school board will host a special meeting at the Wamego Middle School commons on May 1 to allow members of the public to share their opinions on the proposal.
Winter said board members will only be listening and will take the comments into consideration.
The school district is asking people who want to speak at the special meeting to fill out a form, which can be found with the May 1 agenda on the district’s website. The forms are due to the school district clerk by 4 p.m. April 27.
The school district is considering the policy because Wamego students use alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and prescription drugs more than the state average, according to a school district report.
“We feel we do have a need and we are concerned by the drug use in our community by our students,” Winter said.
The proposed policy says students in grades 8-12 who participate in school athletics and activities will be subject to random drug testing. Additionally, parents of children who do not participate in athletics or activities can opt in to the program.
The $4,500 cost of the program would be paid through the Wamego city government’s special alcohol fund, $2,500 from private donations and $1,000 from the school district’s budget.
The policy says the selected drug testing facility will randomly pick students for testing. A principal or assistant principal will collect and send a small hair sample of the student to the facility for testing. In about three weeks, parents or guardians will be notified of the results.
Students who fail the test will meet with the school principal along with the parents or guardian. Winter said the meeting will allow the school district to notify the parents about the problem as well as attempt to provide resources to the student to avoid more drug abuse.
“What we’ve come up with is what we consider a ‘helping policy,’” he said. “If a student tested positive for drugs, our first step would be to sit down with the parents and the student and provide resources and offer a free consultation with health professionals so they can assess the problem and see what the best approach would be to help the student.”
The full policy is available at www.usd320drugtestinfo.com.
Winter said it would also be an option for students to face peer pressure. “This would give them an option to tell people ‘No, I don’t want to take the chance of being tested,’” he said. “We hope this will help students just make better choices.”
The policy does not require school officials to notify law enforcement agencies, and it does not allow for the school to enforce academic consequences on students who fail a drug test. Nearby schools in Junction City and Clay Center have drug testing policies. Manhattan doesn’t drug test its students.
Winter said the policy has been in the making since the fall, and two community meetings helped craft the proposed policy in the spring. He said he didn’t want to predict how the board would vote, but he believes the policy has “solid” support from the community.
“We have some community members who feel we’re getting into what should be the parents’ job,” Winter said. “But my perception is, for the most part, the community supports this program.”