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Taylor Schools approve drug testing

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By James Roberts

This fall, Taylor County students participating in extracurricular activities could be tested for drugs.

After nearly a full year of discussion and study, Taylor County School Board members approved a random drug testing policy during its regular meeting Tuesday.

The policy was passed by a 3-1 vote, with Board Chairman Tony Davis casting the lone "No" vote. Board members Bernie Cave, Jim Cheatham and Lillian Clark voted in favor of the policy. Board member Gary Porter was absent.

"I'm just as confused as I was at the last meeting," Davis said.

At past meetings, Davis has expressed reservations about the policy, saying that if students are being periodically tested, then staff should be as well. A teacher abusing drugs affects every student in his or her classroom, he said.

Taylor County High School Teacher Debbie Hinton, who was a member of a committee appointed to study the issue, said last month that employee testing would have to be addressed in a separate policy. Board members did not discuss a staff policy.

Davis was also concerned about cost.

The Board tabled discussion of the issue in February because it did not have cost estimates. Hinton researched that and provided cost estimates at the March meeting, though no officials were sought.

At that meeting, Hinton said that if the company providing the test also collects the samples, the cost would be $8,400 a year. If the school collects the samples, the cost would be $6,800. The prices were based on quotes from Premier Drug Testing, Hinton said.

The Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition has set aside $1,000 to help pay for the tests, Hinton said.

At Tuesday's meeting, Jody Harmon, who owns Bluegrass Drug & Alcohol Testing, said his company would conduct the number of tests for $5,472.

Davis apologized to Harmon for having been overlooked by the committee.

"This is not the way you get bids," Davis told Harmon. "I apologize for the way it was handled."

Bids can only be sought by the School Board. Superintendent Gary Seaborne would have to seek the Board's permission to advertise for bids.

Davis said other companies' prices shouldn't have been published by news media. However, the prices were discussed in a public meeting.

"You will all be contacted," Davis said. "Everyone will have the opportunity to bid."

Under the policy, students who participate in extracurricular activities will be subject to random drug tests four times a year. This includes athletics, school clubs, band, chorus and cheerleading, as well as students who drive themselves to school.

Hinton said in March that about 80 percent of students at the middle and high schools are involved in extracurricular activities.

The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed school-wide drug testing unlawful, stating that only students who participate in voluntary activities could be tested.

According to the Kentucky School Board Association, as long as a student does not violate another school rule, a student who tests positive for drugs will not face school discipline and will not have their grades or academic standing affected. That rule applies to all Kentucky schools that have a drug testing policy.

Legal repercussions would only occur if students have drugs in their possession.

After a first violation, a student would be prohibited from participating in the next three interscholastic events or the next three weeks of the season. The student must undergo a second test and it be deemed negative before resuming extracurricular activities.

A second violation would result in suspension from the next nine interscholastic events or the next nine weeks, whichever is greater.

Subsequent violations would result in a one-year suspension from extracurricular activities.

Campbellsville Independent Schools already randomly tests its athletes.

Taylor County Schools has never implemented drug testing, though some of its athletes have volunteered for the test in past years.

Also on Tuesday:

- The Board approved an amended 2007-2008 school calendar. Though students missed four days due to snow, they will not have to make those days up. The last day for students will remain May 28. However, certified and classified staff will work four extra days - May 29 through June 3. Closing day will be June 4 for certified staff.

- The Board approved architect Ken Wood's revised district facilities plan. The revised plan used a new formula provided by the state, which shows $4 million more in District needs. The plan will be forwarded to the state.

- Wearing Civil War-era clothing, students SaVannah Rash, Austin Burress, Miranda Scott, Sarah Litchfield, Mark Harris and Chelsea Duplantis presented their S.T.L.P. reports on Abraham Lincoln and Taylor County's Civil War history. The students will participate in the state competition in May.

- The Board approved a contract with Reed Braille Inc. to provide services for blind students during the summer and the 2008-2009 school year.

- Seaborne presented a certificate from the Kentucky School Board Academic School of Studies to Cheatham. Porter, who was not at the meeting, also received a certificate.

- The Board approved medical leave for Taylor County Elementary custodian Gwendolyn Skaggs.

- The monthly personnel report included: new hires - football coach James R. Rogers and TCES principal Brian Clifford; resignations - Taylor County High School instructional assistant Mary Woodcox, TCES instructional assistant Mary Eliza Cobb and TCHS girls' basketball coach David Parsons; and retirement - TCES kindergarten teacher Debra Lynn Piacenti.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.