District begins drug testing for extracurricular activities

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

District begins drug testing for extracurricular activities

The Associated Press

O'FALLON, Mo. -- Students in extracurricular activities in the suburban St. Louis Francis Howell School District begin mandatory drug testing this week.

More than 4,000 students, or about two-thirds of the district, will be in the first mandatory pool to take random urine tests for illicit substances, including marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy. Some student-athletes will be tested for steroids.

All students in extracurricular activities are required to be randomly tested. The school board in St. Charles County approved the policy in June to require testing for any student with a parking permit as well. Parents can also choose to put their students on the testing pool list for middle school and high school students.

Middle school students in the district will begin voluntary random testing next month.

"We believe that the Francis Howell drug-testing program can and will be a model program for other school districts," school district spokesman Jim Joyce said.

Those who fail the random weekly tests would be suspended from their activity for 10 days for the first offense or lose their parking pass for that amount of time. They would not face criminal charges but would be required to undergo counseling for at least four weeks.

The program will cost about $94,000, most of which will go toward conducting the tests each week on 20 percent of the pool. About one-third of the money pays for educating the public.

Students testing positive a second time would be removed from activities for 90 days and would have to complete at least six weeks of counseling. A third offense would ban the student from activities for the rest of their time in high school.

The neighboring Fort Zumwalt School District began a voluntary drug-testing program for athletes this fall. Preliminary figures show about 500 tests resulted in just two positive tests, according to school officials.

Collinsville High School in Illinois begins testing athletes this fall and at least two other school districts in the St. Louis area also are moving toward testing, including Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Ill., and Christian Brothers College high school in west St. Louis County.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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