Students in extra-curricular activities, drivers to also be tested

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Two Alice High School cheerleaders said on Wednesday the school district's new drug testing policy will be a strong deterrent against the prevailing social use of drugs by a large percentage of students at the school.

The girls agreed to speak freely on the issue only if they were given anonymity, to avoid negative reactions from classmates, teachers and administrators.

On Tuesday, the Alice ISD school board approved both the new drug testing policy and the test administration company, A&D Tests, Incorporated.

The price per random test to the district will be $18.

A&D will conduct five panel tests, meaning they will search for five substances in a student's urine sample, including marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamine/methamphetamine and phencyclidine (PCP).

Both cheerleaders said alcohol and marijuana are the two substances most abused by students at AHS.

They are available at parties and social events, they said, and are easily accessible to those students who want to try them.

"They're very available and the pressure is there, but they see everyone else do it and they want to feel accepted," one girl said. "I think it would be a real deterrent for students, if they know that the consequences are real, and that a positive on the test can affect them and their ability to participate in sports like football."

The same student said cocaine use has recently become more prevalent at the school, with several young girls using the substance as a diet supplement to help them lose weight.

Both girls agreed the drug problem at AHS crosses all social classes, from kids who do not participate in activities, to those who make straight As. There are groups of students from every section of AHS who participate in drug use on a social basis, they said.

"I think it's a very serious problem, and it's downplayed at the school," one girl said. "They (teachers and administrators) don't want to acknowledge there is a problem."

According to the district's new policy, any student in grades nine through 12 who participates in a school-sponsored extra-curricular activity and all students who drive a car to school, will be put into the pool of possible random testing, which will take place six times a year.

The district is currently planning to hold orientation sessions for students and parents, where the testing process will be explained in greater detail and provide consent forms which parents and students must sign in order to have the student participate in extracurricular activities or drive a car to school.

During testing, students will be escorted by district personnel to the testing site, and will remain under employee supervision during the test. The sample will be produced by a student from behind a closed restroom stall.

The laboratory will use a random selection method to come up with the names of students to be tested.

According to the policy, no less than five percent and no more than 30 percent of students in the program will be randomly selected throughout the year.

Students who refuse to test when selected will be considered to have a positive test result. An initial positive test will be confirmed by a second test of the same specimen before being reported as positive.

Voluntary drug testing will also be available for students in the district who do not participate in extra curricular activities or drive to school.

Parents can enroll their students at any time, though a request and consent form must be signed by the parent annually for participation in the program.

The parent will be charged a fee at the beginning of the year to cover the expense of the testing in the program for that school year. According to the policy, individual student results shall not be reported to the district under the voluntary program.