Middle school athletes and students in other extracurricular activities may be facing random drug testing this year.
The school board is scheduled to discuss middle school drug testing at its meeting at 7 tonight in the district administration building, 26669 Butternut Ridge Road. The district has since 2014 conducted random drug testing of high school students involved in athletics and extracurricular activities and those who drive to school.
If approved, the policy will take effect immediately, Athletic Director Mike Ptacek said. Ptacek and Principal Bryan Busold will administer the tests. Ptacek estimated the program would affect about 250 seventh- and eighth-grade students. Last year about 750 high school students were affected, Ptacek said.
The number of times the district will do random testing is expected to range from six to 10 during the school year, he said. The number of students tested will vary.
Great Lakes Biomedical, the company hired to administer the high school tests, would also do the middle school testing. Students would be chosen at random from the athletics and activities list. Ptacek said parents also may request that their children be tested — all tests are through urine samples — as part of the program.
The district has budgeted $3,000 for the program. That figure may change at tonight’s meeting.
Ptacek and North Olmsted Superintendent Mike Zalar said counseling and education will be recommended for students who test positive for the first time. Disciplinary action would not begin until a second offense, Ptacek said. If there is a second offense, the disciplinary action likely would be not allowing the student to participate in the sport or extracurricular activity.
Zalar said the high school drug-testing program has been successful.
“During the last four years we have been able to use the program to help kids make good choices and promote drug-free school,” Zalar said via email. “Middle school is a time of great transition and experimentation. For some students, this is the time when they first are exposed to drugs or other chemical substances. By including drug testing for athletics and extracurricular activities at this age we hope to help prevent kids from ever trying these harmful substances and help get them started on a positive pathway of good health and well-being.”
Ptacek declined to reveal how many students have tested positive in the high school program, but he said it has aided them.
“We had parents express great relief and appreciation when we’ve talked and worked with them after we’ve seen a positive test,” Ptacek said. “The students also have seen positive results from it.”
Westlake City Schools implemented a middle school testing program last year that focuses on education, Athletic Director Tony Cipollone said.
“The idea is to change the mindset at that level and make students understand the dangers through education and information, and in extreme cases get the students/families the help they might need to deal with a substance issue,” Cipollone said via email.
Amanda Musselman, principal at Lee Burneson Middle School in Westlake, said students there learn about the dangers of bad choices.
“The random drug test screenings are not punitive; rather, we use it as an opportunity to open discussions and to provide a student wrap-around services they may need to get them on — and keep them on — a positive and healthy track throughout adolescence,” she said.
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