West Platte school board votes to discontinue drug testing program

WESTON, Mo. — Random student drug testing in the West Platte R-2 School District has been repealed — for now. 

At a special meeting of the West Platte Board of Education held Monday, July 24, members heard a presentation on drug testing and drug prevention programs from Vicky Ward, prevention services manager with Tri-County Mental Health Services, which serves Clay, Platte and Ray counties. With only board member Donald Wilson voting no, the board repealed the random drug testing policy enforced on students who participate in competitive activities since 2012. 

The board tasked West Platte superintendent John Rinehart with writing up a new comprehensive drug and alcohol education and prevention program, starting at the grade school level. The program could include another version of a random drug testing policy.

Wilson said he worried that the matter would end at the repeal and believed the current policy should remain in place until a better one could be created. The administration supported the current drug testing policy, he said. 

Rinehart said he did believe that during the course of a school year, most students were included in the pool for possible drug screenings. Athletes, students in competitive activities such as band, plus any student with a parking pass were included.

“I think it covers as many folks as you can cover,” Rinehart said. “I would guess that there aren’t many kids who are not in the pool.”

Under the old policy, 12 random students were tested per month — 10 from the high school and two from the middle school. Rinehart said they rarely got a positive result, and often when they did, it was due to a prescription drug that was identified during review.

For the past four months, board members have questioned the effectiveness of the program and if something including all students should be adopted instead.

Ward said she works with 14 school districts across Platte, Clay and Ray counties and has worked with the West Platte drug prevention coalition since 1993. Tri-County compiles statistics on drug usage across its coverage area, and she presented data concerning tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use in West Platte and in other neighboring districts, as well as a few across the tri-county area. 

According to Ward, random drug testing programs have produced desired results. During a time period when drug use tended to be on the rise in other districts, Tri-County saw usage decline in districts with drug testing programs. 

Results, however, were compiled in part through the application of student surveys with board members questioning the validity of such self-reporting.

West Platte board members reiterated concerns to Ward, but with the start of the school year looming board president Ron Rowe said it was time to make a decision. Patrons were encouraged to speak about the current policy and possible changes at recent meetings with little participation.

“We’ve spent the last four months on this — discussing it back and forth,” Rowe said, calling for a vote on board member Shane Bartee’s motion to repeal the random drug testing policy.

Member Antonio Cutolo Ring seconded that motion, which was approved despite Wilson’s dissenting vote.