Tupelo to expand student drug tests

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – All students who drive to Tupelo High School and park on campus will be subject to random tests for drug and alcohol use, beginning next school year.
Also tested will be students at Tupelo Middle School and Tupelo High School who participate in athletics or any extracurricular activity.
The revision to the district’s drug testing policy was unanimously approved at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting. Under the previous policy, only athletes were tested.
“The goal is to deter drug use among any of our students,” said Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver. “If they are representing the school, they need to be beyond reproach. If they are driving to school, they need to be beyond reproach. This is an incentive for them to do that.”
Violators of the policy will be suspended from participating in sports or extracurricular activities and from driving to school for a prescribed number of days. They also will be required to attend counseling with a certified drug counselor, but they will not be suspended or expelled.
“This is not intended to be punitive,” said school board member Mike Clayborne. “This is intended to be a deterrent and to assist kids in making good decisions.”
A district committee has been studying the new policy since August. Results from community surveys were considered. Shaver said one of the goals was to expand the pool of how many students could be tested.
Public school districts can’t legally conduct random tests for all students. School district attorney Kelly Stimpson said Tupelo will be the only district in the state to conduct tests for students who drive to school, but several districts in other states have similar programs.
Tupelo High School has roughly 2,000 students and more than 1,000 of them participate in some extracurricular activity. An exact number of students who drive to school was not immediately available, but more than 900 students ride the bus to school.
That means about 1,100 students either drive, get dropped off by parents or travel in a carpool.
Tupelo Middle School has about 1,200 students. The number of its students who are involved in extracurricular activities and athletics was not immediately available.
Students and parents or guardians must sign a form consenting to the testing in order for the student to be allowed to participate in an extracurricular activity or sport or to receive a parking pass.
An outside company will conduct surprise testing with no advance notice throughout the year. The names of students who will be tested will be randomly generated.
First-time violators will receive a 30-day suspension from participating in sports or extracurricular activities and from driving to and parking on campus. That penalty will be 60 days for a second-time violator and one year a third violation.
The school district will pay the cost of all drug and alcohol tests.
This policy is separate from the one that allows Tupelo High School to test students who are reasonably suspicious. The two policies will be used concurrently.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.