School Board approves voluntary drug testing

District plans to implement program within next two weeks

Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Juneau School Board approved a voluntary drug testing policy for high school students at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said the district plans to implement the program within the next two weeks.

Students in both the mandatory student athlete testing program, approved in October, and the voluntary testing program are tested for alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, oxycodone, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamines and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Valium and Ativan.

Under the voluntary policy, a positive test would be reported only to the student and the student's parent or guardian. Participating students would receive a card with their name and picture that will enable them to receive discounts at area businesses, as well as other advantages. Should a student test positive through the voluntary program, the number on the card would be deactivated.

The number would be reactivated after the student completed "an appropriate course of counseling or treatment" and tested negative. While students testing positive under the voluntary testing program would be referred by the testing agency to counseling and support, they would only be compelled to undergo counseling should they wish to re-enter the voluntary testing program.

All of the students tested so far through the mandatory testing program have tested negative, Gelbrich said. He did not have an exact number of students tested, but said it was in the hundreds.

As of the board's January meeting, 145 students had been tested.

Under the voluntary testing policy, 10 percent of the students who sign up for the program will be randomly selected and tested each week.

In the mandatory testing program, 15 percent of student althletes on each team are randomly selected and tested each week.

Gelbrich said precedence for the mandatory program or voluntary program will rotate randomly, in case a student athlete signs up for voluntary testing and is selected for testing in both programs in the same week.

The district is currently accepting applications to participate in the voluntary program; Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Jim Kuhlmann said students began signing up on Monday. The district has several other incentives for signups: students who sign up by today will receive a free movie pass, and students who sign up by a later date are entered into a drawing for 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles.

A positive test would not result in academic, disciplinary or activity consequences.

Board members raised some questions, such as whether or not parents would be notified of a positive result if the student was older than 18.

Gelbrich said district staff would look into questions and the board would approve any necessary changes at its March meeting.

The school district has information about its drug testing policies at www.juneauschools.org/students_parents/drug_testing_program.

As of press time, the board also:

• Approved legislative priorities, including increasing of the base student allocation to $5,880 effective July 1, 2010, increasing the age for mandatory school attendance to 18, and funding voluntary pre-kindergarten learning programs.

• Approved a capital fund needs legislative priorities list, to be sent to the city today, and then on to the Alaska Legislature. The list includes $515,000 in school safety upgrades such as fencing on elementary school playgrounds and video cameras to cut down on vandalism, $475,000 for textbooks and instructional materials, $186,000 for technology upgrades and $150,000 for lighting at Mendenhall River Community School.

• Heard a presentation from Thunder Mountain High School Principal Patti Bippus and Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Jim Kuhlmann on the schools' Next Generation programs and plans.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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