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School board considers drug tests for middle school athletes


By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pitt County middle school athletes soon could face random drug tests under a policy change the Board of Education is considering.

The revision, one of 18 suggested from last week’s policy committee meeting, will under go its first reading during the special called meeting on June 27. The full school board first discussed the proposed revisions at Monday’s work session, which is a strictly informational session where no action can be taken. 

Still, the proposed revisions sparked debate, particularly from board member Mary Blount Williams. Currently, the policy takes a three-strike approach in which those who test positive are suspended from all games and contests for 21 days. A second positive test results in a 42-day suspension while a third results in a 365-day suspension. 

Williams said the policy needs to be discussed at the next meeting. She said the schools should take a harder line, with one positive test resulting in an indefinite suspension, effectively doing away with the three-strike policy. 

“Do we have to give them that many opportunities,” Williams asked. “I think that’s something that we as a board need to discuss, whether or not they deserve three strikes. I think that the first time that they test positive, that’s it. That’s it. I do not feel like they deserve three strikes.”

Random drug testing for high school athletes is already covered in a policy that was adopted in 2009. The policy states that “students will not be permitted to try out and/or participate in any athletic program if they and/or their parents refuse to sign the drug testing consent form and/or to submit to the testing means.” 

Drugs specifically named in the policy include steroids, alcohol, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, methamphetamine and others.

The current policy requires that at least 10 percent of a school’s student athletes will be selected for each random testing event. Last year, about 500 high school athletes were tested and about 4 percent tested positive, according to numbers provided by Pitt County Schools. There were approximately 2,000 middle school athletes across Pitt County last year. 

“We want to make sure that when (the students) are there, they are in the best physical health possible and that there is nothing impairing their health,” board lawyer Emma J. Hodson said while presenting the revisions. 

The drug tests cost $12 each and increase to $32 if the sample has to be sent to the lab for further testing. This means that last year, drug testing cost at least $6,000. If the middle school mandate is adopted, it likely will cost at least an additional $2,400. 

The objectives in the current policy are to, in part, prevent drug use and abuse by student athletes, identify students who may be using or abusing drugs and educate student athletes on the negative effect drugs have on their well beings.

In addition to the suspensions, students who test positive have to participate and complete requirements under Project F.I.N.D. (Families Involved in Normal Development). 

Other policies to be considered involve do-not resuscitate orders and a school assignment revision that would ensure that sibling groups can attend the same school. 

Further discussion surrounding these policies and others is scheduled to occur at next week’s meeting after the first reading.

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.