School’s new drug testing includes more students

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari High School students who engage in school-sponsored extracurricular activities just got a new item on their agenda —random drug testing.

The school’s Drug Use in School Activities policy has been updated, revised and presented at a recent school board meeting.

In addition to athletes, drug testing will now apply to all eighth- through 12th-graders who participate in any extracurricular activity. Starting in the spring semester, students and parents will be required to sign a consent form before the student is allowed to participate in such activities.

These include school-sponsored activities with the student newspaper, yearbook, drama, music, student government, honor societies, clubs and similar organizations, the policy states.

Another drug was also added to the policy’s forbidden list — anabolic steroids, sometimes used by athletes to increase muscle size.

“This random drug testing is not a punitive disciplinary action,” the policy said, but rather is designed to help the school “to create a safe, drug-free environment for students and to assist students in getting help when needed.”

Those who test positive will not be expelled, suspended or automatically flunked, the policy said, but will be wrenched from the activity or activities in which they participate, since “Participation in a school-sponsored extracurricular activity is a privilege, not a right.”

The amount of time out from an activity varies on how many offenses the student has, with the most stringent up to the remainder of the school year or even carrying into the next school year if sufficient time has not been served.

Given once every 45 calendar days, the policy said the testing dates will not be announced; any student in extracurricular activities is automatically included in the pool as are students who provide reasonable suspicion of being under the influence. The school will pay for the initial testing, an $86 price tag per test Tucumcari Police Chief Larry Hamm said was not much considering the cost of a life ruined.

If a student is a repeat offender, the parents or guardian will be responsible for footing the bill, the policy said.
“Refusal to do so will result in that student being suspended from all activities for the remainder of the year,” according to the policy.

In addition, “counseling and treatment by non-school counseling or assistance agencies are elective and shall be paid for by the student or the student’s parent or guardian.”
School officials said drug- and alcohol-related incidents have been on the rise in activity groups, with 24 suspensions in the last three years and dozens of investigations on top of that.
Not a single board member disagreed with the revisions, which had been discussed at length and even included an open form for parents late last year.

Martha Frost contributed to this report.

What constitutes drugs:

• All controlled substances prohibited by law.
• All alcoholic beverages.
• Any prescription or over-the-counter drug, except those for which permission to use in school has been granted pursuant to board policy.
• Hallucinogenic substances.
• Inhalants.
• Anabolic steroids.

Source: Tucumcari Public School’s Drug Use in School Activities policy