The North Platte school board has approved drug testing for students who participate in high school activities.

Beginning this fall, as many as 40 students will be selected at random each month and tested.

The school district recognizes “that student substance abuse presents a continuing challenge and a danger,” school policy says.

Only students in extra-curricular activities will be tested, in large part because participation in activities is a privilege and carries expectations beyond those found in normal classroom situations, the school activity handbook says.

Classes begin Aug. 20, and Stuart Simpson, the district’s director of finance and coordinator of operations, told the board the program, which includes an alcohol test, will begin in September and be implemented in stages.

Simpson said that the school board’s subcommittees started planning the program last August.

Board member Skip Altig said North Platte is a leader in the program, with other schools watching to see how it works. Altig said it is something the district takes very seriously, looking out for the best interests of the students.

Board President Mike Morrell said the idea officially came from the students who advise Supt. Ron Hansen. Simpson said Hansen brought the concept with him when he arrived in North Platte nearly 3 years ago.

Great Plains Health will test the samples, which will be identified only by a number. If a student fails the test, the sponsor of the activity will be told only that the student violated the school’s code of conduct and has been suspended from the activity.

Simpson thanked board member Matt Pederson, an attorney, for helping craft the procedures and protecting student privacy. And, he thanked former board member Alecia Hothan for helping craft ways to help students who test positive for drugs, instead of only punishing them.

If a test is positive, parents or guardians would be contacted immediately, along with the student.

Students must consent to the testing when they sign up for the activity and their consent is binding until they drop the activity or graduate. Simpson said all activities are included, from sports to band, journalism to the chess club, as well as the others.

 

Sanctions

Under the proposal, students who fail a drug test would be removed from the activities program.

If a student is taking prescribed medication and tests positive, the situation can be clarified when the school talks to the parents. Parents can appeal test results if they request it within 24 hours.

Violation could result in short-term suspension, long-term suspension, expulsion and referral for criminal prosecution, depending on the number of violations and severity thereof.

Any combination of three offenses during a student’s high school career will result in exclusion from all athletic and/or activities for one calendar year from the date of the infraction.

A student in violation can reduce the penalties, where applicable, by self-reporting his or her violations before the test. To receive the reduction, the student would self-report to a sponsor, coach, assistant principal, principal or activities director within 72 hours of their violation.

Parents students and school staff would collaborate on a plan to help the student avoid substance abuse in the future, the policy says.

On the first offense, the student will have to sit out for 60 days. Suspension will last 90 days for second offense and one year for the third offense.

As stated above, that time would be cut in half if the student self-reports, in advance of the test, that he or she used a controlled substance or alcohol.