As of Wednesday, August 15, 2018
PROSSER The Prosser School District voted to offer district students involved in extracurricular activities the option of participating in a voluntary drug testing and education program beginning this fall.
In Fall 2016, the Prosser School District formed the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Advisory Committee to research the idea of implementing a voluntary drug testing program for the district.
Prosser School Board members Andy Howe and Scotty Hunt were appointed to the committee by the board.
Howe and Hunt presented the idea to the board in an effort to give children and parents an option to reduce drug use among students that participate in any extracurricular school activities.
“When we started to look at the numbers of kids that were reporting they used drugs and alcohol regularly because of peer pressure from other kids, we saw this as an opportunity to help offer an out and let them decide if they wanted to have another reason to avoid drug use,” Hunt said.
The proposed policy drafted by Hunt is completely voluntary. The program is designed so that students can “opt in” or “opt out” of participating in the drug testing program.
While participation is not mandatory, the board is hopeful that the program will be successful. The proposed policy is designed to allow students, along with their parent’s agreement, to consent to be tested.
Part of the agreement is students that test positive for drug use will agree to temporarily be removed from their extracurricular activity while they undergo a period of drug intervention training and then, after passing a clean drug screening, return back to their activity.
“Voluntary drug tests give students one more reason not to use illegal drugs,” Hunt said. “Other districts that have used this voluntary model see students use the school’s drug testing program as a tool to stand up against peer pressure to use drugs.
“This policy was written to give kids who face daily pressure from their peers to experiment with drugs an out by participating in extracurricular activities. If a student has already made a bad decision about drugs, this program will help them through our education and intervention component to help prevent future drug use,” Hunt added.
One of the key aspects of the Prosser program is the inclusion of a drug education component, Hunt said.
The district is partnering with Thrive Prosser, a local service club that will help present the drug awareness and education component of the school’s program.
When illegal drug or alcohol use is identified through drug testing, students and their families will receive support, counseling and follow-up testing for the student to ensure that the student becomes and remains drug-free.
The voluntary program will be available to all students in grades 7-12.
Hunt said students that “opt in” to the program will be put into a “pool” where they may be selected at random for screening.
Records will be kept confidential and not released outside of the program to anyone, including law enforcement.
Hunt stressed that this program is not punitive.
“We want this to be an opportunity for kids to get away from drug use. We aren’t looking to punish them or get them in trouble in any way,” Hunt said.
Statistics from the state-wide Healthy Youth Survey show that access and incidents of juveniles involving drugs, alcohol and tobacco continue to remain on a steady increase from year to year in the community.
“These facts about our youth and dangerous drugs should be alarming to all of us,” Hunt said.