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Gainesville High considers random drug screenings

POSTED: April 30, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Gainesville High School is beginning to look at starting random drug screening for students who participate in athletics or extracurricular activities or drive to school.

The school and school system administrators are beginning to express to parents, School Council members and others "that we are in support of random drug screenings," principal Mike Kemp said Friday.

"We will begin researching funding options and ask the (Gainesville City Board of Education) for consideration in the 2008-09 budget," he added.

Kemp said many school districts in Northeast Georgia "are having the same discussion."

Hall County schools has mandatory, random drug testing in place for its athletes, with costs covered by gate receipts as part of athletic budgets.

The Hall County Board of Education voted Monday to move toward expanding the testing to include students who drive to school, possibly as early as the fall.

The expanded move could be covered by student parking fees now in place. A public hearing could be set later on the matter.

Hall school officials also have considered expanding the policy to include middle and high school students in extracurricular programs.

"Those would be next steps," Superintendent Will Schofield has said. "One of the challenges is you can't use your general fund money to test (for drugs)."

As to whether Gainesville's policy could be mandatory, that's not near the decision stage. Kemp said school officials "will determine the policy to be presented to the (school) board for approval."

"We are just beginning the discussions and will identify all possible funding sources," he added.

The issue is scheduled to come up at the city school board meeting, which is set to start at 7 p.m. Monday.

Brock Boleman, a Gainesville High School junior, said he believes random testing is a good idea, particularly for athletes.

"It's going to be a regular thing to do (in college athletics)," said the 17-year-old, who plays football and basketball and runs track. "We might as well be prepared for it now."

Colin Sawyer, 17, who plays soccer, said he believes testing athletes is OK, but expanding it to other areas might use up money that could be spent better elsewhere.

Gracie McGarity, 17, who plays soccer and softball, said she believes testing could be done randomly, regardless of the student's school involvement.

"If you (tested) a couple of students, then everybody would get kind of scared and it would make people obey the rules," she said.

Sawyer and McGarity also are juniors.

Hall County athletes are subject to screenings for alcohol and substances that include amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, opiates and propoxyphene, according to the drug policy.

The policy states that an athlete who tests positive for the first time will be banned for 10 percent of the team's scheduled games for the season, excluding practice scrimmages.

With a second offense, the student will be suspended from the team but can apply for reinstatement after at least four weeks if the student can provide a negative drug screen to school administrators, agree to continue with drug counseling and be subjected to future testing on demand.

The principal, head coach and athletic director will decide on reinstatement.

A third positive screen will result in suspension from all interscholastic athletic competition for one calendar year from the date of the result.

Northeast Georgia Health System's toxicology department conducts and evaluates the tests.



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