The Ennis ISD has been awarded a grant by the federal government that will help them implement a new drug testing program and be part of a small group nationwide that will receive funds to help keep their campus drug free.

The program will be handled by an off-site testing company that will contact the school with a random list of names of students to be tested, with results being sent to the school a short time later.

“This is a system that will allow the district to have the program and help the students without having the task of choosing which students are tested. It is the best way for the district to handle the situation and avoid any concerns of which children are tested,” said EISD athletic director Bill Cox.

According to the guidelines for the program, if a student tests positive the first time, he or she will be suspended from any extra curricular activities or UIL events. The student will be allowed to practice but not compete. Also, the student will undergo mandatory sessions with a drug counselor and be tested whenever any other testing takes place for the rest of the school year.

A second offense will result in the student being removed from all extra curricular activities for a calendar year and to be checked for drugs every time testing takes place on the campus. Sessions with a drug counselor will also be mandatory.

A third offense will mean that the student is expelled from the district for the rest of their high school career.

“This program is not intended to punish kids or to catch them doing anything wrong. Our job is to help these kids and we want to give them a reason to say no to drugs. It is a lot easier to say no to peer pressure if there are known consequences that a kid could face and we want to give our students every possible reason to stay away from drugs and alcohol,” Cox said.

According to EISD Superintendent Dr. Eddie Dunn, the program is a form of positive pressure and is a way to handle the issue before it starts.

“This program is a commitment on the part of the district to be preventative. It is our commitment to the community to help our kids make better decisions and we are excited about it,” Dunn said.

Due to the test being highly sensitive, if a student is found with some indication of drugs in their system but not more than the five percent minimum needed to warrant suspension, the parents of the student will be asked to meet with school administration to discuss what may have caused the test to show positive and what steps the student may need to take to avoid testing positive in the future.

“We are all for our kids, but we need them to understand this is serious business. The decisions they make today will stay with them a long time. We want to help them be as successful as they can be. We hope this program will help students realize their potential and not let peer pressure ruin their chances at a bright future,” Cox said.

Being part of such a small group the district is aware that other districts within the state and around the nation will be watching them closely to see how the program works.

“We know that we will have eyes on us and we are prepared to set an example and be a success story for the program. We do not anticipate having many, if any, situations that warrant a student being expelled from the high school. However, more importantly than being an example for others is our effort to help our kids. We don't know how many this program will help because they don't want to risk being caught, but if we deter just one than I think we can be proud of our success,” Cox said.

E-mail Candie at candie.adams@ennisjournal.com