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Taylor Schools may begin drug testing

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By James Roberts

Taylor County Schools are a step closer to requiring students who participate in extracurricular activities or drive to school to take random drug tests.

At their regular meeting Tuesday, Taylor County School Board members discussed a drug testing policy presented by Taylor County High teacher Debbie Hinton on behalf of a committee appointed to study the issue.

While students at Taylor County Middle School would be included, Hinton said, the testing would focus on the high school.

"Students who participate in anything that is a voluntary activity could be tested," Hinton said.

This includes athletics, school clubs, band, chorus and cheerleading, as well as students who drive themselves to school.

The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed school-wide drug testing unlawful.

Ideally, Hinton said, the tests would be given at least four times a year and would be administered by an outside agency. Testing would cost an estimated $15,000 to $18,000 per school year.

Bill Ramage, of Russell Springs-based Premier Drug Testing, said his company's test would screen for prescription drugs as well as common illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy.

Hinton said the committee recommended Premier Drug Testing. At $24 per test, the company offers the lowest cost.

The discussion began in May when Hinton asked Board members to consider adopting a drug testing policy.

Currently, Campbellsville Independent Schools randomly tests its athletes. Taylor County Schools has never implemented drug testing, though some athletes have volunteered for the test in past years.

At the May meeting, Karen Hayes, Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition project director, presented findings of the 2006 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey, which suggests 7 percent of Taylor County's eighth graders and 18 percent of Taylor County's seniors have tried marijuana. As for prescription abuse, 8 percent of eighth graders and 15 percent of seniors say they've taken medicine not prescribed to them.

On Tuesday, Board Chairman Tony Davis said that school administrators and teachers "should lead by example and be tested as well."

While Hinton agreed, she said the cost might prohibit that.

Under the proposed policy, students who test positive for drugs will be required to have at least one session with a substance abuse counselor and enroll in a drug abuse program at the parents' expense. Positive test results can be contested within 72 hours after the family has been notified. Parents must pay for any additional tests.

A positive test will have no bearing on a student's grades. They will only be limited or prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities.

According to the Kentucky School Board Association, as long as a student does not violate another school rule, the student will not face school discipline and will not have their grades or academic standing affected.

The only way legal repercussions could occur, Hinton said, is if the student has drugs in their possession.

After a positive drug test, 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 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.

The Board agreed to send the proposed policy to the Kentucky School Board Association for review.

High school will get additional vice principal

The Board approved a request by TCHS Principal Charles Higdon Jr. to create a second vice principal's position for the high school.

As principal, Higdon said, he has so many responsibilities that he can't always devote the amount of time to each that he needs.

"We're getting the job done, but what I'm talking about is not just getting the job done, but taking the next big step," Higdon said.

Higdon and the school's site-based council looked at other comparable schools at which students were testing higher than TCHS. Those schools, Higdon said, had two vice principals.

Higdon said he would like the new vice principal in place by early next year so that Vice Principal Dale Furkin can help train them. Higdon said Furkin may retire after the current school year.

Though Seaborne asked Board members to allow him time to find funding for the new position, they opted to create the position now. This, Davis said, would allow the job to be posted now so that the school's site-based decision making council could begin reviewing applicants around the Christmas break.

Also on the agenda:

-- Jeff Sprowles of Wise, Lee and Buckner presented the Board with the 2006-2007 audit report. The report shows a carryover of $1.7 million, while expenditures increased 6 percent and revenues remained the same.

-- TCHS student Taylor Cox was presented with a certificate in honor of being named a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist.

-- Board Vice Chairwomen Lillian Clark commended TCHS on its recent Veterans Day ceremony.

-- The Board set a special meeting for Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. at the Board office to review the master facility plan. The meeting is open to the public.

-- Personnel report included - Resignations: Michael Woodrum, Taylor County Middle School custodian; Mary Louise Carter, Taylor County Elementary School staff support secretary; and Amanda Atkins, A-room monitor. New hires: Holly Oliver, TCHS dance team coach; Ramonda June Carney, Brenda Lee Jenkins, Millie Parker, Mazetta Sue Sprowles and Laeticia Ann Stubbs, classified substitutes; Jeff Gumm Jr., TCMS assistant boys basketball coach; Mike Pollock, TCMS boys' basketball coach; and Buddy Loy, TCMS dishwasher/four-hour custodian. Reassignment: Faye Burton, TCMS four-hour custodian.

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