Wilson County Schools will explore joining a limited number of districts that administer random drug tests to high school athletes and other extra-curricular participants, which supporters believe can be a preventive measure.
The Wilson County School Board recently approved the go-ahead to setup a test program for illegal drugs that begins with formation of a committee to seek input and work on details of the potential program. Specifics would need to be brought back to the board for approval.
“From conversations among administrators, sponsors, and coaches, we want to make it easier for our students to say no to drugs and we want to help those that may have started down the road of experimentation,” Wilson County Schools Health Services Supervisor Chuck Whitlock said.
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Is drug-testing allowed?
Tennessee law only allows drug testing for the general public school student body when there are reasonable indications of illegal drug use.
However, extra-curricular activities are considered a privilege and not a right, which allows for random testing in those activities.
Wilson County has had a drug testing program for high school athletes before through a partnership with Tennova Healthcare – Lebanon, though that stopped years ago.
“I felt like it was a positive,” said Bill Robinson, a Wilson County School Board member and former longtime coach at Watertown High School. “It only represents trying to help our students. This is a problem in our world we can’t ignore and we’re trying to address it.”
Sumner County has drug-testing history
Sumner County adopted a uniform policy for high school sports governed by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association in 2013. It was previously done on different levels by individual schools in the district.
Ten percent of students on a roster per sport are selected for testing using a random selection tool, according to Sumner County Schools policy.
“Students and parents expect it and parents as much as anyone want to know if their child is taking something they shouldn’t,” Sumner County Schools spokesman Jeremy Johnson said.
Very few students test positive according Johnson — including just one this school year.
A first positive test results in an immediate 30-day suspension from all participation in the student’s sport. However, the student can continue to fully participate in the sport during the 30-day suspension with participation in a four-week counseling program after which an additional drug test is conducted.
A second positive test results in a 60-day suspension and a student who tests positive a third time loses the opportunity to participate in high school athletics.
Trousdale County High School
Director of Schools and former longtime football coach Clint Satterfield estimates Trousdale County High has held a drug-testing policy for extra-curricular participants for 18 years.
The screenings are also random for athletes, cheerleaders and band members that involve around five students per month, Satterfield said. Trousdale County has around 400 students.
Trousdale County also utilizes counseling as a component of a first offense with test results kept confidential and the student allowed to participate with additional screenings to follow.
A second positive test will result in a calendar year suspension from the activity. A third positive test will be a permanent ban from extra-curricular activities.
“Our policy isn’t to nab students, but it’s to give students the ok to say no to peer pressure,” Satterfield said.
Franklin County High School conducts random drug testing as well.
“I think it’s a deterrent,” Athletic Director Mark Montoye said.
How Wilson County will move forward
The Wilson County Schools drug-testing committee will include representatives from the four high schools that will seek input from administrators, parents, student leaders and coaches from their school and counterparts at other schools.
Specifics the committee will look at include frequency of a test, how many students will be tested at a time, ramifications of a positive test and the process of handling a positive test.
“One of our biggest goals will be to maintain strict confidentiality and to eliminate false positives,” Whitlock said.
The district anticipates contracting with a third party to conduct the screenings if it moves forward, which Sumner and Trousdale counties both do.
Metro Nashville Public Schools, Rutherford County and Williamson County are among districts that don’t have a drug-testing policy for athletics, officials said.