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Drug testing update

Posted: Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Juneau School District has now entered its final planning phase in its attempt to stop school drug use by randomly testing high school student athletes.

The testing is set to begin this month. This means that students currently involved in fall sports and those who will be in winter sports will be among the first to be tested for illegal controlled substances.

For now, only high school student athletes will be a part of the district's new drug-testing plan.

Each week, 15 percent of all students involved in extracurricular activities will be randomly chosen to provide a urine sample to the school district for testing. The urine test will be able to detect the presence of, for example, opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and Phencyclidine. How often or how close the drug use is to the actual test will effect whether or not the test can detect the drug's presence. Unfortunately, a urine test is usually only reliable for up to a week after drug use.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich has predicted that this new testing policy will cost the district more than $212,000. This will include the cost of the tests as well as the new position of a drug abuse counselor.

Students who test positive will be suspended for the remainder of the current season, but they have the opportunity to appeal. They also must complete treatment.

Students will not be penalized academically for a positive result, and positive results will not be reported to the police.

As a JDHS student, I acknowledge that our school has a drug issue, and I appreciate the effort the community has put into solving this problem. However, as a member of multiple sports teams and activities, I believe that adopting a drug-testing program will be ineffective. Anyone with access to a computer can type, "beat drug test" into Google and get 10,300,000 hits. Some sites have detailed descriptions of how to circumvent such tests.

A urine test, while the most cost-efficient for large-scale testing, is very unreliable. A urine test can be manipulated so many ways that any high school student, if motivated enough, would be able to find a way to pass the test.

Stores and online sites sell detox and other related products that can help clear the urine.

Various liquids could effectively flush detectable traces of any of these drugs from your system. In people with low body fat, the traces of the drugs remain for less time. Therefore, testing student athletes will produce few results, even if the students are heavy users.

Currently, district policy is that any student caught with illegal drugs will be immediately removed from sports and activities for the remainder of the season. This does not seem like an effective strategy to reduce drug use in our school. If one of these students is banned then they will only be given more time to use and abuse the illegal drugs, making the problem much worse, not better.

There is no clear answer as to the correct way to deal with the school drug problem, but urine testing is not the solution. Kids take drugs because they are bored, and drugs are readily available in this town. More activities for teens and more resources for law enforcement seem more appropriate ways to decrease the drug problem.

• Alex Barto is a senior at JDHS and a member of the swim team, wrestling team, and student council. He is a student in Ali McKenna's Writing for Publication/Creative Writing Skills class.



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