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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mammoth board considers drug testing students

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mammoth Spring School Board has been considering a new policy that would ban students from participating in extracurricular activities if they test positive for alcohol or illegal drug use.

"We're still in the planning stage," Superintendent David Turnbough said Monday, March 7.

Other Arkansas schools, including Cave Springs, Highland and Salem, have similar policies in place.

Turnbough said the district will have a public meeting, likely in May, to allow students and parents an opportunity to learn and speak about the proposed policy. The board is not set to make a decision until July, he said.

Turnbough said he has asked students informally how they feel about random drug-testing.

Their response has been positive, he said.

"The typical student wants their peers to get help if they are having trouble," Turnbough said.

If approved, the policy calls for randomly testing seventh- to 12th-grade students for illegal drug use, if they participate in after-school sports or other extracurricular activities. Multi-Drug Testing Company of Cherokee Village has submitted a proposal to the district for the service.

To be random, at least 20 students must be tested at a time.

"A lot of people misunderstand the purpose of testing," Turnbough said. "It's to help --not punish."

The random testing could also give students a more socially-acceptable "excuse" among their peers for declining to use illegal drugs.

While to say that their parents disallow drugs may be embarrassing for a teen, to say instead that they face being kicked off the football team for doing drugs is more tolerable for high school students, Turnbough said.

"Which one is more acceptable for peer pressure?" Turnbough said. "This gives kids an option to say no."

The Highland policy states that students who participate in all activities from band, sports, FFA, science club and the yearbook staff, will be tested at the start of the school year, and then randomly throughout the year for illicit drugs.

For students who test positive, parents will be notified to meet with the superintendent. The student will be recommended for counseling and will be placed on confidential probation, according to the policy.

After a second positive result, Highland students are suspended from activities and operating a motor vehicle on campus for the remainder of the school year.

"No student shall be punished academically for testing positive for illegal drugs," the Highland policy states. The results are also not documented in student academic files.

The purpose of the Highland drug abuse policy is to allow students "to know that the school is concerned about their total wellbeing. The school is interested in helping students who may be having problems with illegal drugs or alcohol," the policy states.

Turnbough joined the Mammoth Spring School District this year, after serving several years as the Salem Elementary School principal.

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