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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:15 am

Performance drugs on EACS' random test list

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

The East Allen County Schools board will consider testing students for performance-enhancing drugs along with others it included in its proposed random drug testing, the board said Tuesday.

The vote on drug and alcohol testing for certain groups of students – those participating in co-curricular or extracurricular activities and those who drive to school – was delayed for two weeks to give the board time to change the guidelines. The next board meeting is scheduled for June 16.

EACS will rely on an outside service to select the random students for drug testing based on a number system. If results are non-negative but not necessarily positive, then a second drug and alcohol test will be conducted, said Jeff Studebaker, EACS’ safety manager.

Drugs included in the test list are alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, cannabis and methadone. Performance-enhancing drugs will be added to the list.

As proposed, a $2 fee will be added for co-curricular and extracurricular activities to cover testing costs, according to school officials.

If a test comes back positive, school officials would contact parents or guardians and offer assistance in the form of counseling. The current proposal would also ban the student from participating in competitions in the chosen activity for a third of the year.

However, the student would still be allowed to attend practices and rehearsals, EACS Superintendent Kenneth Folks said.

The administration has indicated that the drug testing is not intended to be punitive but rather to give the district a way to offer help. The student "wouldn’t lose academic status or be turned over to authorities," Studebaker said.

However, if follow-up tests show the behavior is continuing, a second violation would result in suspension for the rest of the current season of the activity and the next season, according to a chart the school district provided.

A third violation would result in suspension from competitions and performances for 365 days from the infraction date.

Board member Tim Hines suggested that with the first offense, the student not be taken out of competition but instead put into counseling.

"We have kids in the co-curricular or extracurricular activities who need that. Where would they go if they are no longer allowed to do that? My suggestion on that first violation would (be they) go to counseling" or are "suspended from the first offense until (they) enroll in counseling," Hines said.

Board member Paulette Nellems said she was concerned that the proposed policy "still puts the financial burden on the parent. That’s time off work. Those are the parents who are burdened most."

She was also afraid that it might hurt a student’s chances to attend Anthis Career Center, recently renamed Fort Wayne Community Schools Career Academy at Anthis.

"They get this little ding on their record. How will that affect that student?" Nellems said.

Studebaker said the new policy would have no effect on a student’s academic record, only on participation in activities.

Allen County sheriff’s officer Tom Miller, who works in the Harding attendance area, made an impassioned plea to the board in favor of the proposal.

"If we can get kids help rather than me step in and incarcerate, I think it’s a win-win. If you go to jail, it’s a 50-50 shot as to how they come out," he told the board.

In the opinion of law enforcement, "most of us figure out, ‘how can I keep kids out of jail,’" Miller said. "If I get wind of a kid on any type of drugs or alcohol, I go over to the folks’ house. I’m very cautious with my speech, but I do want to help them.

"It’s worth it when I don’t have to put a pair of handcuffs on the children. It’s not as easy as it seems."

jduffy@jg.net