by BRAD ROLLINS
Three years ago, San Marcos CISD trustees ended the district’s random drug testing for student athletes and other extracurricular participants, saying it didn’t seem necessary after only five students tested positive for illegal drug use in five years.
Starting again this school year, San Marcos High School students who participate in organized sports or other UIL competitions must agree to random drug screenings in order to participate. Here’s the bottom line for students and parents:
What will they test for?
The tests will detect amphetamines and methamphetamine; barbiturates; marijuana; cocaine; hallucinogens such as LSD; opiates such as heroine; and phencyclidines such as PCP and angel dust.
Athletic director and new Rattler head football coach Mark Soto said the program will not test for steroids at the onset but that steroids or other performance enhancing drugs could be added later if the school board wants to pay additional costs.
What happens if I test positive?
But after “recent incidences with students involving the use of drugs and alcohol,” as a memo to trustees said, board members voted unanimously this week to reinstate the program starting with the upcoming academic year.
They were urged to do so by Superintendent Mark Eads and athletic director Mark Soto, who said the precious few positive results turned up when students were last subjected to random screenings is a sign the program was effective in deterring drug use, not that it wasn’t needed.
“It’s important to this community along with other communities in the area. There’s a prevalence of drugs in this area,” Soto told board members during a regular meeting on Monday evening. “I think kids need to understand that this is not right. It’s not okay to try. It’s not okay to sample. We’re trying to hold these kids to a higher level. We’re trying to make them be more productive in society.”
Board members adopted the drug testing requirement 5-0 with trustees Lupe Costilla and David Castillo absent.
Under the new policy, San Marcos High School students who participate in University Interscholastic League athletic or academic competitions — from athletics to One Act Play, drill team to debate — will be required to provide an urine sample on demand if their name is drawn on one of eight unannounced testing dates each school year.
A student who tests positive for any of tested drugs will be suspended for 45 days from competing in his sport or other activity during which time he will be required to complete a 10-day remediation program being called Rattler Respect. A student who tests positive a second time will be suspended from extracurricular activity for the remainder of her high school career.
“Some people may say that’s harsh but it’s setting a high standard. The standard is: ‘If you use drugs, you can’t play with us’,” Eads said.
The tests will detect amphetamines and methamphetamine; barbiturates; marijuana; cocaine; hallucinogens such as LSD; opiates such as heroine; and phencyclidines such as PCP and angel dust. Soto said the program will not test for steroids but that steroids or other performance enhancing drugs could be added later if the board wants to pay for it.
School district staff is budgeting $13,000 to pay contractor Pinnacle Medical Management to randomly select 30 students — 15 women and 15 men — every month to be screened. In addition to the random pool, “there will be some individuals we can take the liberty of adding to the random list if we’re suspicious,” Eads said.
Between 2004 and 2009, San Marcos CISD randomly tested 60 students a month — 30 from the high school and 15 each from Goodnight and Miller middle schools. During those five years, 1,200 tests triggered initial positives but the vast majority of those instances — all but five — turned out to be because of prescription medication or other medical issues, the San Marcos Daily Record reported in 2010.
Based on scant evidence of illegal drug use among students yielded by the testing program, trustee Kathy Hansen, then the school board president, called the decision to end testing “a no-brainer” but said she was opened to bringing it back if officials decided it was worthwhile.
“If we start having problems we would certainly look at it again. I just don’t think it’s that serious a problem at the high school or we would have had a lot more positives,” Hansen told the newspaper.
This time around, students and their parents will have a form they can use to disclose prescription or medical issues that could prompt a false positive. Even if the program identifies a relative few drug users to school officials, drug testing should be district policy from here on out, Eads said.
“Our goal is that we never get a positive test,” Eads said. “And if we don’t after a while have any true positives, that doesn’t mean we should do away with it in a year or two. That means it’s working.”