Drug testing task force's first meeting scattered

Posted: Friday, June 19, 2009

On Wednesday night, the Juneau School Board's newly formed drug testing task force met for the first time, but didn't set goals, deadlines or a plan to present its proposal to the School Board in August.

Moderator and board member Destiny Sargeant tried to stress to nine members there that the committee's purpose was to craft a random drug-testing program of athletes, though the committee spent the first thirty minutes debating why they were there.

While they agreed drug testing athletes should be the first step toward fixing the drug problem among Juneau's youth, they had a problem with scope and were distracted by digressions on fixing the entire drug problem in the high schools.

"I'm not here to save an athlete" but the students in general, said Ronalda Cadiente-Brown, project coordinator for the Juneau School District.

It was a common theme among committee members.

"We've been ignoring this problem for a long time and it's been growing and growing ... and that drug testing might just be a minor part of our program for our kids," said Bob Urata, a family physician. "That doesn't mean that we should not do it, but that we should look at the whole problem."

Sargeant also digressed.

"Even if we do random drug testing, for sure we know Juneau needs more for our youth," she said, mentioning a possible future drug treatment center for kids in Juneau, just one of the ideas tossed around during the meeting.

They discussed whether drug testing should be random and mandatory for sports, or voluntary for the whole student body. They fretted over legality issues and even mentioned possibly making changes to the district's drug and alcohol policy.

They were repeatedly worried about the portion of the school not being tested and even whether random drug testing would be effective in decreasing drug use among the athletes.

The committee's only conclusion from its first meeting is that more data needs to be gathered on the legality of drug testing, how to implement a drug testing program, Southeast Alaska's other school drug testing programs, the drug problem in Juneau and treatment available for students identified as drug users.

The task force is scheduled to meet from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through July at Thunder Mountain High School's library.

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