Bandon High to test for drugs in fall

BANDON — A new test awaits Bandon High School students when they return to classrooms this fall.

During its regular meeting this week, the Bandon School Board unanimously approved a random athletic drug screening program. The policy would apply to all students who participate in Oregon School Activities Association-governed extracurricular athletics and activities at BHS, including all sports, band, choir, cheer, dance and speech teams.

The board has discussed the new policy for more than a year and has held two public forums, as well as surveyed BHS students and the community.

Monday night, BHS Athletic Director James Freitag detailed for the board the changes he and the administration have made in response to community concerns about the policy's wording.

"Since drug, alcohol and tobacco use is illegal and interferes with both effective learning and the healthy development of children and adolescents, the school has a fundamental legal and ethical obligation to prevent drug use and to maintain drug-free environments," the policy states.

The goal is not only to provide a safe environment for all students, but also to prevent and reduce the use of illegal drugs among all BHS students by focusing on those involved in athletics and activities, who often set an example for other students, Freitag has said at previous meetings.

Students would be screened prior to their first activity of the year, then could be tested randomly thereafter during that or any subsequent activities they might participate.

At Monday's meeting, Mike Forrester, athletic director of North Bend High School, described for the board the experience NBHS has had with its drug testing policy, which was instituted last fall.

Forrester said about three years ago, administrators felt they needed to address a growing drug problem in the school.

"Safety was the first issue," Forrester said. "Our intention was not to be punitive, it was to give kids a healthy choice and an option. Our goal is to give Johnny a reason to say no. Peer pressure is the strongest influence on kids."

Forrester said NBHS's policy isn't perfect, but he believes it has had a positive effect. When asked how many students he thought didn't go out for teams because they would be tested, he guessed about 20.

Only two others attended the meeting. Lacey Jackson, parent of a high-schooler, said she felt if 20 students chose not to play, Bandon might not be able put together a team.

"We almost didn't have a baseball team this year already," Jackson said. "If that happened, you would be denying other kids the opportunity to play."

Freitag agreed that was one of the gambles the district would take with the new policy.

"I'm hoping they'll choose to participate," he said.

School board member Kate Valleli said high schoolers are at an age when they don't always realize the consequences of their actions and such a policy would provide immediate consequences.

Students who took the district's online survey were not supportive of the policy. Although 61 percent said they believed there was a drug problem at BHS, 92 percent said they felt if a drug policy was adopted, students would choose not to participate. Only 28 percent of those who filled out surveys said they supported a drug testing policy.

Some commented on the online survey they would support the policy if all staff members also were tested. Others complained it would be an invasion of privacy and wouldn't fix the drug problem.

The policy will go into effect with fall sports and activities.

All urine samples will be screened and tested for seven classes of drugs: amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, THC, opiates and alcohol.

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