San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

July 18th, 2012
San Marcos CISD to restart random drug tests for student athletes, others


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.

Fast facts

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?

First positive:
• Parents or guardians are notified and a conference is scheduled with school administrators and/or coaches. Student is notified of right to appeal result.
• Student is enrolled in the Rattler Respect counseling program, which can last up to 10 days.
• Student is suspended from competing in his sport or other competition for 45 days. She will still be required to practice and participate with the team but won’t be allowed to take the field.
• Student is automatically tested each of the eight next random drug screening days.

Second positive:
• Student is expelled from extracurricular activities for the remainder of his high school careers.

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.”

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12 thoughts on “San Marcos CISD to restart random drug tests for student athletes, others

  1. If testing is a deterrent to a child with a problem, it is a deterrent to participation. Yet participation is an answer to those kids with problems, so I don’t want to deter participation.

    Plus, throwing in UIL academic should make this unconstitutional. The supreme court opinion upholding random testing of kids relied upon the fact that student athletes showered together to mean they had less of an expectation of privacy. The debate team shouldn’t be showering together, so they should still have an expectation of privacy (and respect).

  2. What about alcohol, which typically leaves the body very quickly? A student could get wasted every Friday night but be “clean” in time for Monday morning drug tests. They don’t seem to be testing for alcohol, but if things are the same as they were when I went to SMHS, that’s what most of the kids are doing on the weekends – especially the “popular” athletes. And there are other drugs that can also be metabolized and leave the body very quickly, like cocaine.

    I wonder how effective this truly is at both catching and deterring drug use. Perhaps the low rate of positives previously seen was a result of more kids drinking alcohol than doing meth or PCP.

  3. How about we leave the moral policing/socialization with the parents where it belongs? Now if some kid does something AT SCHOOL deal with it according to the established disciplinary rules, sure. But do we really want our school systems getting involved with whether or not a debater or point guard smokes pot on their own time over the weekend? How is this the school’s responsibility?

  4. Implementing random drug testing will virtually wipe out the SMHS basketball and football teams (as last seasons issues with drug use did to the basketball team). As the football team is already predicted to fail again this season, why not invest the money instead into life-long-valuable programs dealing with character, goal setting, self-esteem, etc.? (Have any of you heard of the program “Above the Influence”?) It IS possible to make it through SMHS without joining the drug/alcohol culture so prevalent throughout this town, but it’s difficult. I am thrilled that the school board is finally facing the facts of rampant drug use at the junior/senior high school levels.

  5. When a child is forced into government schools to learn the government mandated curriculum, a safe environment should be a minimum expectation. The alcohol and drug use is not just happening on the weekends, but during school, school functions and school trips: teachers drinking alcohol in soda cups during school trips, kids smoking weed in hotel rooms during school trips, kids smoking weed on campus are just a few examples. The parents of a couple of teen boys who were involved in the recent death of one of those boys probably wish random testing had never gone away. What are the stats on the relationship of drug use to drop outs?? Drug use is not done in a vacuum.

  6. Does the Explorers club still exist at SMHS? When I was a student there, it was widely known that the students in the Explorders club drank heavily on all the overnight camping trips. But, again, these drug tests won’t catch alcohol use.

    I don’t think these tests will deter drug use as much as they’ll prompt students to drink instead because they know the alcohol will leave their systems in time to produce “clean” drug tests. Alcohol is also much easier and cheaper to get than illegal drugs: raid mom and dad’s cabinets, have an older sibling or friend purchase, wait outside H-E-B and give a college kid a few bucks to purchase, go to parties at the college apartment complexes, etc. I knew people who did all of those things while I was a student at SMHS, and the majority of them were athletes and/or students in AP classes.

  7. Unless I missed something, our judicial system is (was) based on a theory of being innocent until proven guilty. Random drug testing, be it of students or airline pilots forces the person being “randomly” tested to prove their innocents rather than the government proving their guilt.

    I have always and will continue to oppose random testing of a person for any reason. Back in my days of law enforcement, there was something called probable cause. If that exist and the government, school,or employer feels they have the probable cause to believe a person is on drugs, then go ahead a do your test, make your case and prove the target you have selected is guilty.

    And for the record, I have had to submit to several random drug test while in law enforcement. I had nothing to hide then, have nothing to hide now. To me its a matter of protecting the few rights we have left in this country.

  8. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  9. And where do we draw the line? Kids who are suicidal are no doubt at greater risk if their parents have unsecured weapons in their house. Should the school district start doing random checks of the houses of students who seem depressed?

    How about kids who are dangerously overweight? There is overwhelming evidence that this is setting them up for all sorts of problems that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Should the school district start mandating diets for any overweight UIL participants? Its all about protecting children, right, and helping them achieve their potential?

    And LK is correct, alcohol is by far the most pervasive and dangerous substance in our public schools and this test does nothing to touch that, rendering the whole thing kind of pointless on a lot of levels. Well, except steering our kids toward a more socially accepted if just as harmful vice. Once again, let me state, if something happens AT SCHOOL it is appropriate for the school to act…the school grounds are their proper domain and if the school authorities are not acting accordingly (such as letting teachers drink on school trips, although I am skeptical how often this happens) then you have a whole other issue, an issue, once again, hardly touched by your random drug testing.

    Ultimately, do we really want to send the schools through this door and out into the public? What is the school’s function? Is it to make sure YOUR kid is not smoking pot (once again, if this happens at school it is an entire other issue)? Funny, I always thought of that sort of thing as a parenting responsibility. You suspect your kid is doing drugs you pay for the test yourself, don’t ask the state to pick up the bill.

    But, if this is such a good idea for the school to do, I propose we begin a random drug testing program for everyone in the city limits who has a drivers license (it is a privilege right?). We could just pull random names each month and send the police to their house or place of work and make them pee in a cup. Anyone who fails gets their picture pasted on a billboard on I-35 and they lose the right to drive for 45 days. As a voter and tax payer in this town I want to hold my fellow citizens to a “higher level” too…

  10. I agree with Rodney, I am strongly opposed to random testing. If the school has concrete evidence a reason to believe a student is under the influence, and can articulate those beliefs, by all means, test away, and make the penalties for failing a drug test severe. If you don’t have that evidence, leave the kids alone.

  11. When I was a student at SMHS, many many years ago, I would have had no problem with a random drug test; so long as the Principal or School Board President held the cup.

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