Tupelo schools consider expanded drug tests

TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District will spend much of 2009-2010 school year crafting a comprehensive drug testing policy.
In addition to more testing for student athletes, random testing of all students in grades 6 to 12 and district employees also will be up for consideration, said Superintendent Randy Shaver, who outlined for the school board a policy process that will include broad input from the community
“This will impact everyone in the school system,” Shaver told the board during its meeting Tuesday. “It’s important that we have a totally drug-free environment.”
Currently, the district has random testing of student athletes. Employees who drive for the district – bus drivers and coaches – are tested.
Students can be tested for drugs if there is a reasonable suspicion.
Likewise, employees can be tested if there is a suspicion of drug use, but there is no policy of random tests for either group.
Shaver has appointed a team to evaluate the existing policies, review what other districts are doing and gather feedback from the community. The team will bring in legal assistance from District Attorney Kelly Stimpson as well as Mississippi school law expert Jim Keith.
The options for the drug policy include keeping the current policies, formulating completely new policies or blending new and old, Shaver said.
“We could have a policy ready next month” for board consideration, Shaver said. “But when you’re talking about random testing of all students, we have to give parents an opportunity to hear about it.”
According to the timeline presented Tuesday, the district is slated to have in October a community survey and host forums on increased drug testing and what it could mean to students and employees.
A first draft of the policies is expected to be delivered to the board in February for review and amendment. Final approval of any policy is slated for April.
If approved, training would start in May and continue over the summer.
In the interim, district administrators and board members do want to adjust the current testing of athletes to be more unexpected and random.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1589 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal