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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
GRANVILLE — A little more than half of students involved in sports and other activities at Granville High School have opted out of new drug and alcohol testing.
The parents of 206 students, so far, have pulled their kids from the random tests, while 193 have consented, according to Granville Superintendent Jeff Brown. The numbers cover students in fall sports and other extracurricular activities; results will change as the school year progresses and other seasons start.
Brown said the results were expected, given concerns expressed by the community when the school board adopted the testing program this year.
"Anytime you implement a new policy, there are a lot of questions and concerns," he said. "I'm not disappointed. At a minimum, all of the parents that had to make a choice had a conversation with their children. I think those conversations are critical."
Approval of the new policy capped about five years of efforts to address substance abuse among teens, including the implementation of a drug and alcohol prevention curriculum throughout the Granville district, surveys and school board meetings.
Under Granville's program, a random sampling of students involved in covered activities are tested for drug and alcohol use about once a month.
Initial tests identifying drug or alcohol use are provided to parents only — those results are not included in academic records or automatically disclosed to authorities — with affected students included in subsequent random sample pools.
The district gets involved after a second positive test, with students losing eligibility to participate in sports or other activities.
The goal is to reduce drug and alcohol use, Brown said.
"It's not trying to catch kids," he said. "It's trying to help them make a good decision upfront, and if they are in a situation where they are having difficulties that we get them the support that they need."
Granville included the opt-out provision, allowing parents to pull their kids from the testing without affecting their eligibility to participate in sports or activities. The language was included after concerns voiced by parents about constitutional issues and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.
Court precedent allows schools to implement drug testing for sports and activities, said Gary Daniels, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which opposes such testing absent suspicion of drug or alcohol use.
The tests cost $25 to $30 each, or about $500 to $550 per month in total, Brown said. The expenses are being covered through the $40 parking fees paid by students.
Only one test has been conducted so far this school year at Granville, with no positive results, Brown said.
The school board approved the testing policy for three academic years.
"You have to look at it over several years," Brown said. "We're committed to looking at this over the long term."
Granville is one of the few area districts that included an opt-out provision that enables students to continue to participate in sports and other activities.
At Newark High School, student athletes who decline the random testing have to sit out a year, said Athletics Director Jeff Quackenbush.
In the 10 or so years that the testing has been in place, only one student has tested positive enough times to lose eligibility to participate in sports, he said. Others with initial positive tests have to complete drug and alcohol counseling before continuing with their sport, with subsequent positive tests leading to suspensions from contests.
"The goal is to give kids another reason to say no to drugs and alcohol, Quackenbush said. "I think it's working. People are definitely not complaining. Parents want to know what's going on."
There's no opt-out provision at Heath High School. In fact, said Superintendent Trevor Thomas, parents can opt their kids into the drug testing program if they're not involved in sports.
"It's a deterrent that's there for some kids," he said.
Licking Valley High School also doesn't allow student athletes to opt out of drug testing and continue to play, said Athletics Director Mark McCullough. Students have to complete the testing initially when entering a sport, then remain in the random pool to maintain their eligibility to play.
A first test identifying drug use results in a loss of at least 20 percent of a student's sports involvement. A second results in half, and third ends that student's eligibility.
McCullough said the testing has helped the district stay on top of emerging issues. He cited tests that identified marijuana use among athletes a few years ago that prompted increased educational efforts concerning that drug.
"We're being as proactive as possible," he said. "I think we really do a good job of making sure it's a deterrent for kids."
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