Umatilla School Board members were not ready to create a random drug-testing policy in the district at their meeting Thursday night after failing to come to a consensus about what needs to be done.

Though the intention of the meeting was purely to discuss the issue, board members said prior to this week’s meeting their discussion could lead to a policy decision being made by the next meeting in December.

After board member Shelley Kennedy highlighted what the work group discussed during its meeting with Oregon School Board Association attorney Ben Becker, Saturday, the board decided to hold at least one more session with Becker before making any kind of decision.

During Saturday’s session with Kennedy, Jon Lorence and Superintendent Heidi Sipe, Becker recommended what language to include in any policy adopted in light of the fact the district has little data that drug-use is a problem at the high school.

“We don’t know if we have a problem, and (Becker) said that is kind of a problem,” Kennedy said Thursday night.

Kennedy said the legal basis to drug test students stems from Supreme Court case Vernonia District 47J v. Acton, where the court ruled districts can randomly test athletes for drugs if they can prove there is a problem within the district, there is community support for the policy and they had tried less intrusive means prior to establishing a policy.

“We haven’t,” she said. “We don’t have documentation. We haven’t tried less intrusive means first. When we asked the community, we had 51 percent approval.”

The district has, however, has implemented drug dog sweeps this year at the high school and middle schools the past two months, board Chair Toby Cranston said, arguing that is a less “intrusive”?mean. The district, however, hasn’t found any proof the district has a problem, Sipe said.

Without supporting evidence, Becker suggested the School Board adopt a policy so the district has something to fall back on and that school officials continue to use their “less intrusive means” — canine drug sweeps and drug-testing kits that are available for free to interested parents.

Within Becker’s proposed policy language, if an incident occurs, the district officials could decide whether to test a random selection of students on a single team — if it was determined athletes from that particular sport were involved, or they could choose to test a random selection of all students involved in athletics.

“We didn’t know we could just test the football team,” Kennedy said. “We can test (a random sampling) of whoever we choose.”

Sipe said, under Becker’s recommendation, a triggering event would have to occur to prove the district has reason to investigate student drug use.

The district would then have the flexibility to decide how much of a random sampling of students it wanted to test.

Board member Travis Eynon said his concern with implementing a policy that would only be implemented if a triggering incident occurred is that the district would never use it.

“I am not interested in implementing things that we are not going to use just so we can (have them),” he said.

Board members will meet again later this month or in early December to discuss the issue further with Becker before making a decision. The district will announce the date for the next work session on its website at http://www.umatilla.k12.or.us/school-board.

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