West Platte Board wants to review drug-testing policy

After more than a year of mandatory random drug testing, the West Platte Board of Education wants to know if the program works.  The Board was reviewing a group of about 10 of its Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) policy updates, including its random drug testing policy, which was established in October 2012. Under the program, the district conducts random drug tests of students in upper level grades as a condition of participation in covered activities regulated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association, as well as other extracurricular activities. Board Vice President Donald Wilson said he understood, when the policy was first established last year, that after a year it would be reviewed. “It’s been over a year – almost a year and a half – and I want to know if it’s working,” Wilson said. “Apparently it is, because I haven’t heard any complaints, but I think it’s something we need to discuss.” Board member Ryan Rotterman agreed, stating he would like to see some results and statistics to see if the program should be continued. Superintendent Dr. Jerrod Wheeler said while he was happy to talk to the Board about the program, he is wary of sharing information that could compromise student privacy. “We’ve been very protective of the students’ privacy,” he said. “If a student sits out (of activities) we tell the teachers the reason just isn’t discussed why – it could be for a medical reason, it could be any reason. It just isn’t discussed.” Rotterman and Rowe were both troubled by Wheeler’s reluctance to discuss the program, as they noted they weren’t asking for student names. They said they were asking for statistics, as in how many tests had been given over the last year and how many came back positive. “Is there a problem with us knowing how many times the drug dogs have been called in?” Rotterman said. Wheeler said perhaps he could give such a report in a closed-session meeting. “I’m confused about the secrecy with all this,” Rowe said. “If there’s a real reason for it, please tell us so we know.” “I think it will be an eye-opening experience,” Wheeler said in response. “We will try to get you that information in some way.” The Board voted unanimously to set aside the policy for further discussion and an evaluation of the program. Also at the meeting, the Board discussed some letters sent home to parents this week that caused a bit of a fuss. The district is preparing the rollout of its student tablet technology initiative, which will provide students with a Dell Venue 11. The letter asked parents to attend a mandatory meeting and asked for a $30 usage fee for the equipment. Wheeler said the letter, while worded with fairly strong language, was substantially the same as one sent to parents during the test phase of the tablet program. The difference lies in that this has been sent to all parents instead of just a few. “Facebook was on fire last night with comments – I don’t do Facebook, but my wife read them to me for about half an hour until I had to ask her to stop,” Rowe said. “I understand that we want to give the students a sense of ownership and make them feel like they have some skin in the game, but maybe we could refund that money at the end of the year, or a portion of it.”