McPherson USD 418 may soon implement a random drug testing policy for students, and those with school ties are hoping it does its job to steer them away from harmful substances.
A special committee has been working for two months on developing a proactive policy that would replace the reactive policy currently in place. Its approval is expected to be on the agenda for the next district Board of Education meeting June 11.
A committee - including the McPherson High School assistant principal and nine middle school and high school staff - has developed a policy they think will deter students from substance abuse.
The new policy would implement a random urine test for up to 10 percent of students in grades nine through 12, and up to 5 percent of students in grades 7 and 8 in any Kansas State High School Activities Association activity. Tests could be administered up to a bi-weekly basis anytime during the school year after signing three consent forms.
The test would be administered by a third party, and would aim to detect up to 16 substances.
The original draft received full support of coaches and sponsors of USD 418 KSHSAA activities.
“We want a reason for kids to say no,” Shane Backhus, MHS assistant principal, said. “Our goal is for it to be a deterrent. I think it's the right thing to do in the long run.”
Of the 680 students in the affected grades, 450 to 500 are in KSHSAA activities. Participation in these activities has been ruled as a privilege, not a right, therefore allowing for privilege withdrawal in case of policy violation.
The district sent a copy of the proposed policy to parents this week and asked for feedback. Backhus, who has been collecting phone calls and emails, has received strong support for the policy.
“Every parent that’s responded has been in support,” he said.
Doug Kretzer, MHS head wrestling coach, is a parent of four students who would be affected.
“We want to know as parents and as coaches so we can hopefully stop that cycle before it becomes a lifestyle,” he said.
As part of the steering committee, he visited schools that had their own policies in place and observed their operations.
“I'm behind it 100 percent,” he said. “I think we need it. I think it would provide a deterrent and a valid reason to say ‘no.’ It gives them a consequence and a decision to make as well.”
Kretzer is also an employee at NCRA, which also has a random drug testing policy. If McPherson would implement its own, he said it would prepare students for their future.
“It's just part of being an adult and in the work force,” he said.
Page 2 of 3 - Jana McKinney, mother of a sophomore and a freshman, is in support of the policy.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on students to perform at a higher level,” she said. “The random drug testing will encourage kids to do what they can with what they’re born with rather than using steroids.
“Having a third party involved will also ensure everyone is treated equally for testing.”
McKinney said she wishes the testing would go a step further and test all athletes. Some with regular abuse may never be tested or helped.
“The earlier we know it, the more likely we are able to intervene and get the illegal substance out of their system,” she said.
Jim Munsey, MHS special education teacher and parent, said he thinks the policy goes too far.
“My first thought is it’s a violation of rights, and I hate that we have to go down this road,” he said.
Rather than random tests, he would prefer the students be informed they could be selected based on suspicion of substance abuse.
“I don’t know what purpose that would serve,” he said of the random selection. “I don’t feel like a kid should be pulled in if there's no cause. I’m leery of it.”
Anne Burghart, a soccer and band participant who will be a junior next year, does not think the policy would be an invasion of her privacy. She doesn't, however, think it would drastically change the behavior of students.
“I think most students would probably do it anyway, but it would help a minority at least,” she said. “Some kids do drugs to get into the cool crowd. If they get that deterrent, it would definitely help at least a little bit.”
In a recent survey of 51 MHS students involved in KSHSAA activities, more than 50 percent said drug use is a problem.
Marcus Houghton, a football, basketball and track participant going into his senior year, said he agrees substance abuse is a problem in McPherson schools and supports the policy.
“I think it can be a good idea to make sure everybody’s not doing drugs,” he said. “They know there would be consequences, and there would be a way to keep everyone accountable.”
Following board approval, the policy would be implemented in fall 2012.
Who would be tested
Page 3 of 3 - Students in the following activities will be subject to drug testing if a drug testing policy is approved.
All KSHSAA sponsored-sports
Hi-Stepper Dance Squad
National Honor Society