West Platte still trying to get input on student drug testing policy

WESTON, Mo. — The West Platte Board of Education plans to make a decision on student drug testing before the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Last week, the board decided to give constituents one more opportunity to give community input on the testing program.

A special board of education meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29 in the central office to discuss the drug testing policy, and options for a more comprehensive drug prevention program.

With West Platte board president Ron Rowe absent, vice president Ryan Rotterman presided over the regular Wednesday, June 21 board meeting. He addressed the nearly empty audience room, asking if anyone had input on the drug testing policy.

“This is surprising,” he said, when no one present wished to speak. “If anyone has an opinion on this, reach out to us before the next meeting.”

Rotterman also encouraged the public to attend the June 29 special meeting.

Over the last few months, the board has asked for input on the drug testing policy, which was 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. 

West Platte board member Kyle Stephenson said he didn’t want to wait any later than the July meeting to make a decision, so that the administration would have ample time to implement any program changes and notify students and patrons of requirements. 

After discussion last month, West Platte superintendent John Rinehart included sample drug policies from neighboring districts, which board members said was helpful in their considerations.

“It would behoove us all to think about having a comprehensive prevention program in place for all students,” said West Platte board member Tracie Kalic, adding she had researched information on these programs from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drug testing by itself is not an intervention.”

Board members generally agreed that creation of a comprehensive program would be a long-term goal, but that a decision on testing should happen before the start of school in August.

Stephenson and Rotterman held to their previous stance that whatever program the district adopts should cover all students, with Stephenson noting that parents need to take an active role in their children’s lives and address drug abuse at home as well.

“I’ve gone through 40 years of seeing that whenever there is a societal problem people say to let the schools handle it,” said Stephenson, who himself is a retired West Platte superintendent. “Schools are not parents.”

Last month, the board discussed possibilities for testing of all students, although the legalities of such testing are questionable. Rinehart last month said there were two Supreme Court rulings covering student drug testing, and while one limited testing due to privacy concerns, the second seemed to open the field to a wider testing policy. 

As far as Stephenson knew, this broader interpretation had yet to be tested in court.

At a special meeting held Wednesday, June 7, the board approved furniture, flooring and playground equipment purchases. Preschool furniture will be purchased from Commercial Concepts and Furnishings at a cost of approximately $36,000. Elementary school furnishings will be purchased from SSI Furnishings for close to $50,000. A bid from Image Flooring for carpet and stair tread replacement in the high school was approved at a cost of more than $31,000.