It is looking more and more likely that all Umatilla High School students involved in extracurricular activities will be subject to random drug testing in the near future.

Several members of the Umatilla School Board met Tuesday night at a work session to consider instituting a random drug testing policy for students within the district.

After discussing a number of pros and cons brought up by a variety of community members, district administrators, school staff and students, the group ultimately decided to recommend creating a policy that would go into effect possibly by the end of the school year.

Superintendent Heidi Sipe said the general consensus from the School Board members in the work group is the policy will act as another tool in a tool kit to help students resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol. She said discussion on the recommendation will be brought up at the next board meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, though a decision on the policy won’t probably be made until the following meeting.

Board member Travis Eynon, also a member of the drug policy work group, said he supported such a policy.

“It is an incentive not to use these drugs,” he said. “If we are catching people in the middle of the season, then we are probably catching somebody that really, truly does have a problem and needs help. Athletics should be the least of their priorities in life at that point. It should be that (they) need to focus more on getting healthy so that they can play the next year.”

Eynon is also the administration captain for the Hermiston Police Department and said his main concern for students using drugs while participating in sports is they pose a danger to themselves and others.

“When you are under the influence of any kind of intoxicant, it impairs your judgment,” he said.

“My concern is that they are going to go head long into a pile with their head down and have a neck injury or a concussion because they are playing out of control. Right now, I am thinking about kids playing football while they are zooted out of their mind and they can’t even concentrate on what their responsibilities are.”

Some of the positives of creating a random drug testing policy the work group members discussed included catching students earlier so they could get help; that the policy would help students become proactive about their health and drug prevention; and it might help boost the confidence of students to say no to the substances.

Some of the cons identified were students and families might feel school officials don’t trust their personal decisions; there are still programs that have been reduced or cut because of funding; the money spent on a drug-testing policy may not seem like the most student-centered decision; and because the data hasn’t shown the school has a significant drug problem, people may question why the district would implement a new policy.

“Quite frankly, as a coach, it is no fun to have some of your best players, half way through the season, gone, but, honestly, my concern is safety,” Eynon said. “The last thing I want is for a kid to be out there that is zooting that is playing a sport that is fast, that requires them to think, requires them to react ... That is 100 percent my reason for supporting the policy.”

Sipe said the reason for testing just the students involved in extracurricular activities, as opposed to the whole student body, is it is illegal to test all students.

“Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education,” she said. “While we can suspend a student for misconduct, even children who are expelled receive educational opportunities. Extra-curricular activities are extra, and we can set selection and code of conduct requirements for participation ... In short, all kids have a right to an education, but only some get to participate in optional activities.”

In addition to the work group recommending the policy to the board, Sipe said the district will also be heavily promoting the use of take-home drug testing kits that are available to all interested parents through the district.

She said the district received money to buy the kits through a grant several years ago, but hardly any families have made use of the opportunity.

The take-home kits, she said, provide results instantly.

“I don’t think we have done a very good job of promoting that,” she said.

In addition, Sipe said the district will also continue to utilize the drug-sniffing dog from Two Rivers Correctional Institution. The dog visits the schools every so often each semester to sniff lockers, random classrooms and the parking lot.

Sipe said if a policy is implemented, the random drug testing program will cost the district roughly $31 per student, with the yearly cost depending on the number of students tested.

At the high end, Sipe said, the policy would cost the district approximately $10,000 per year.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.