Starting in January, any Halifax County High School student who chooses to participate in extracurricular activities not required for graduation may be subject to a random drug test.
The Halifax County School Board made this decision in a 5 to 2 vote when they met Monday evening at Clays Mill Elementary School.
Chairman Sandra Garner Coleman and Walter Potts, vice chairman, two board members who have voiced concerns about the regulation since the beginning, voted against it.
Jeff Davis, supervisor of student services, first brought the idea of interscholastic program random drug testing to the board in March with the idea of testing students who participate in Virginia High School League activities, which includes athletes and other academic teams such as ACE.
The policy has expanded to include extracurricular organizations defined as “any sport, club, organization or activity that is not linked to an academic grade but that is under the purview of Halifax County Public Schools.”
The board has discussed price, consequences and other concerns about speculating which students are using drugs over the past few months.
“I could see this turning into a real circus,” said Coleman in August, who also added she would rather see the money go to educating students about drugs.
In a final attempt to sway members, Coleman told the board Monday evening, “We don’t have the money in the budget for it.”
Davis said the cost will be anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.
While there isn’t a line item in the current budget for random student drug testing, Bob Aylor, interim finance director, said, “We could potentially come up with the funds.”
Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg noted the funds could come from savings, but he stressed they would have to establish a line item for it in the upcoming budget.
ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd made a motion to accept the draft regulation but later amended his motion not to take effect until 2020.
“What’s the difference,” said Potts. “If we don’t have the money now, we won’t have the money then.”
ED-7 trustee Monty Lowery pointed out the board often finds funding to cover unexpected items saying, “We always pick the money up.”
As stated in the approved regulation, in order to participate in a sport or club, students and their parent or guardian must consent to random drug testing, drug testing due to reasonable suspicion and voluntary student or parent disclosure of drug use.
Once a student and parent consents to the drug testing, he or she will remain eligible for testing through the end of his or her sport or extracurricular activity season.
If a student chooses to withdraw from the sport or club, he or she will no longer be subject to random drug testing.
The company chosen to administer the tests will receive the Virginia High School League master eligibility list identifying all sports players and a copy of the membership roster for all HCPS authorized clubs. Names will be put into a computer to be randomly selected.
Drug testing will be performed by collecting a saliva sample, and students will be tested for marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, opiates, cocaine, methamphetamines, anabolic steroids, phencyclidine, MDMA and/or any other substance defined as a “controlled substance” by either Virginia or federal law.
If a test is positive, the student will be suspended from activities for a minimum of 30 days. Administration will then conduct a screening interview with the student and parents where an intervention program will be imposed.
The student and parents must submit to the intervention program at their expense.
After the 30-day suspension, the student will be tested again and must agree, along with his or her parent, to regular testing for the remainder of the activity or season.
Once a student has completed the intervention program and passed the second drug test, the student will be provided with a letter of reinstatement and is then eligible to resume participation.
However, it is noted in the regulation it is up to the head coach or sponsor to determine when a student is ready to resume full participation.
If a student has a second offense, he or she will be suspended from school for 90 days, will adhere to an intervention program and will be subject to additional testing.
If a student has a third offense, he or she will be suspended from having any further participation in the sport or extracurricular activity while enrolled at HCPS.
The board also took the following actions during Monday night’s meeting:
• Recognized Annette Duffer, Kanette Hollis, Kelly Hudson, Meagan Smith and Heather Snead for becoming math specialists after completing an Old Dominion University program at SVHEC while also working full time;
• Heard the opening of school report from Dr. Valdivia Hall, assistant superintendent, who said 25 new teachers were hired for the 2019-2020 school year and that enrollment had dropped by 65 students;
• Unanimously agreed to renew a contract and pay an invoice of $3,000 to Virginia School Board Association to continue using their policy services program;
• Unanimously approved a budget timeline with the first public input hearing set at 6 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the school board conference room at the Mary Bethune Office Complex; and
• Heard a request from Coleman to allow a survey to be posted on the school system’s website to see if parents would be in favor of looking into the idea of having school uniforms. The board took no action on the request.