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Positive drug tests could have big consequences in school
Gainesville schools mull testing; Hall schools implemented screening in 2004
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Random drug tests may seem like an issue for professional sports, but Gainesville City Schools is considering implementing its own procedures to screen students and take away their privileges if they test positive.

The proposed drug screening would be implemented at Gainesville High School and would impact student drivers and athletes.

"I don't know how fair that is," said Sharon Clancy, a Hall County resident.

"I think the testing crosses the line a bit. But if they are going to do it, they should be testing all students."

Superintendent Merrianne Dyer introduced the procedures during Monday's Gainesville City Schools Board of Education meeting.

Dyer said the measure was drafted by the school's governance council, which is composed of parents, teachers and administrators.

"Gainesville High School reports that they have considered this action over the past three years. The consensus at this time is that this action is needed to ensure a safe and drug-free environment," Dyer said in a memo to the school board.

The proposed policy, as was presented to the board, would require student drivers and athletes to sign a consent form submitting to random drug tests and allowing the school to release the results to their parents, administrators and head coach, where applicable. The signed form would be required before students would be able to drive on campus or participate in athletics.

The random testing could take place any time during the school year and would be conducted by the staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Forensic Toxicology Laboratory. The urine tests would cost $25 per student and would screen for marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and barbiturates among other things.

Chris Mance, high school principal and a member of the council, said the procedures are designed to help but not hurt students.

"I actually brought this to the school governance council because I feel like (drug use) is a societal problem. Schools around us have already been into their drug testing policies for some time," Mance said.

"I think we need to be proactive now."

The Hall County Schools System implemented a student athlete drug testing policy in 2004. It was expanded in 2008 to include student drivers.

The city schools' proposal outlines the escalating punishment for up to three positive test results. On the first offense, a student would be suspended from participating in 20 percent of their scheduled games or have their driving privileges suspended for 36 days - 20 percent of the school year.

By the third offense, students would be suspended from driving and all extracurricular activities for one calendar year.

Since the tests would be done by a random lottery, Mance said he sees the pending screening procedures as an opportunity to help students make good choices outside of school.

"I think this would provide our kids with a crutch that they can use in bad situations (when they are asked to try drugs)," Mance said.

"It can help them to say, ‘No,' since they know there's potential for them to be tested. It may keep them from making a poor decision."

According to Mance, student athletes and drivers were specifically named in the proposed policy because they have the greatest potential of harming themselves and others with their drug use. He also said all extracurricular participants could be subject to drug testing.

"It's not one of those things that's designed to be a gotcha. It's more to help kids make good decisions," Mance said.

"I think it could really help kids that are on the brink of experimentation and even the ones that have already experimented."

The board is expected to vote on the issue during its May 25 meeting.