The Escambia County School Board is preparing to take a bold step forward in an effort to minimize the presence of drugs on our school campuses. In addition to the current daily drug dog searches at randomly chosen Middle and High Schools, the Board is preparing to initiate a student drug testing policy. A random drug testing policy was discussed by members of the School Board during a series of meetings held over the last several months. Recently, a draft testing plan was developed for the Board by a committee comprised of the School Board Attorney, members of school district staff, parents, community members, and local business leaders.
This initial draft policy, presented for the Board this past December 9th, calls for students to submit a consent form authorizing random drug screening if these students wish to drive their vehicles on school property, participate in athletics, or become involved in extra/co-curricular programs. Not every student will be required to submit a consent form--just those who wish to participate in the above named activities. This proposed testing policy is the latest addition to the district’s evolving comprehensive drug awareness plan, spawned following a contentious School Board workshop held on May 14, 2010.
While some look at the issue of drugs in schools through rose colored glasses and proclaim the problem is “in check” —the facts prove otherwise. The number of drug related expulsions In Escambia County Schools jumped from 71 in the 2008-2009 school year to 83 in the 2009-2010 school year -- an increase of nearly 17%. A recent analysis of the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Surveys from 2007-2010 indicates an increase in adolescent use of marijuana from 15% in 2007 to 19% in 2010.
Drug abusers are not indigenous to schools—everyone knows this. Drug abusers are a societal problem. But drugs seep over from communities and into schools, and that is why the School Board is taking action. This issue is about student safety; no matter what one’s viewpoint may be on the subject of decriminalizing certain drugs— even if it was legal--marijuana does not belong on campuses. Like alcohol and abused legal prescription medicines—none of these items belong at schools.
Our comprehensive drug awareness plan is helping our schools become safer. Testing will be a vital addition to this comprehensive approach. The School Board’s thoughtfully conceived testing plan delineates the process of how the students will be randomly selected and also how any positive test results will be handled. Data will be kept confidential and all applicable State and Federal Laws will be followed. Students will receive appropriate counseling and assistance if necessary, and avenues for redemption will be available to students who make poor choices.
The testing component will be the strongest tool available to deter district students from taking drugs. Signs and slogans are fine-but If students know they can be tested, and testing positive for drugs could preclude participation in sports or other extracurriculars, this will help students say NO. If students know a positive test could occur and jeopardize a college scholarship---these students will be empowered to say NO. Testing will provide students a buffer against strong pro-drug peer-pressure.
Obstreperous, discordant, civil-libertarian types may oppose this plan --this is sad yet predictable. But few will be able to deny the powerful impact a random drug screening regimen will have on student behavior and decision making; when enacted, this plan will reduce the amount of drugs brought to schools, making our campuses and students safer.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.