West Platte board still seeking input on drug testing policy

WESTON, Mo. — The West Platte Board of Education heard opinions from staff about the student drug testing policy earlier this month and wants to hear more.

The board invited the public to attend the May board meeting, held Wednesday, May 17, to give opinions on the program, instituted in 2012. Under the policy, those students participating in school athletic programs are randomly screened for drugs using urine testing. 

Board members have questioned the efficacy of the program, or if it should be expanded to all extra-curricular activities. 

Cindy Bond and Laura Moose spoke out in support of the testing program with no members of the general public present at the meeting. Bond said speaking for coaches, they were all in favor of the policy.

“It may need to be tweaked, but I will be sick if you just throw it out,” Bond said. “We worked hard to get a drug policy, and I don’t think we should just throw it away.”

Board members asked Bond her opinions on whether the program should be extended to junior high students or to other activities.

“I have had concerns about the consequences to students who come to school to be part of something, and we may be taking that from them,” board member Tracie Kalic said. “That activity may be the one thing that connects them to the school community. At that point, it becomes a punitive not preventative measure.”

Bond said it wasn’t as if coaches weren’t already trying to stop students from using drugs. Moose agreed, saying coaches always tried to help their players to make good choices. 

“You have to remember we’re talking about teenagers here,” Bond said. “They’re going to try to get away with whatever they can get away with.”

West Platte board member Kyle Stephenson questioned why the drug testing needed to be limited to athletes, although he knew there were U.S. Supreme Court rulings prohibiting just that. 

“To me it doesn’t make sense that we’re just drug testing the athletes, yet we can have kids just walking in off the street stoned,” Stephenson said. “If we’re going to do it for (athletes) why not do it for everyone. If we’re going to help them, why not help everybody.”

Board vice president Ryan Rotterman agreed. 

“If I’m a drug user and I like baseball but I like smoking pot better than playing baseball, I just don’t play baseball,” Rotterman said. “But I can still do other things in school and attend the activities. We’re doing a disservice to the students who aren’t involved in sports.”

Board member Shane Bartee, who is an attorney in his professional life, said the Supreme Court rulings allowed testing of students involved in competitive extra-curricular activities.

West Platte superintendent John Rinehart said there were two such Supreme Court rulings, and while one limited testing due to privacy concerns, the second seemed to open the field to a wider testing policy. However, as far as he knew, this interpretation had yet to be tested in court.

West Platte board member Antonio Cutolo-Ring said the research into drug testing shows limited effectiveness of such programs, and it’s unclear if the testing actually deters drug use.

“I’ve read studies with really mixed results,” Kalic agreed.

West Platte board president Ron Rowe said he wanted to see some sample policies from the state school board association and to continue the discussion next month. The public is again invited to come share their opinions on the drug testing policy at the Wednesday, June 21 board meeting.

Also at the meeting, the board heard updates from JE Dunn about the continuing capital improvement and maintenance projects. Exterior brick work on the elementary school addition will begin in June with renovation work starting right after the end of school.

The board also approved the purchase of 16 various HVAC units from Hearthland Mechanical, replacing decades-old roof units. 

The replacements include air conditioning and furnace units.