The Waxahachie ISD superintendent has decided to push back the date for board members to decide whether the district should implement a drug testing policy for students and if it should create a police department for the district.
The school board was expected to vote on the policy in July, but superintendent Jeremy Glenn made the announcement Monday that he’d like to make sure the board had plenty of time to thoroughly consider the decisions at hand.
“The LRPC (Long-Range Planning Committee) and the SHAC (School Health Advisory Committee) committee made a series of recommendations related to a Waxahachie ISD police department and also to a drug testing program,” Glenn said. “What we’d like to do, rather than rush to take action on that before the start of school, is set up a series of meetings for the fall and allow the board to study that in more depth, and also get more realistic financial numbers as to what the cost would be for the PD and for the drug testing program. If the board will allow us to do that, then we can come up with something a lot more sustainable as far as the SHAC’s recommendation.”
Originally proposed by the SHAC at the last regular board meeting on June 8, WISD’s University Interscholastic League (UIL) random drug testing policy would be for all secondary students, grades seven through 12, participating in any extracurricular activities, not limited to those who park on school grounds.
SHAC took on the task of proposing the policy after about 60 community members who were part of the LRPC proposed the SHAC to take on this task and the task of researching whether the district should have its own police force as part of several recommendations from the LRPC to the WISD board earlier this year. In the original proposal, 1,000 tests would cost about $16,000 on an annual basis, according to the REACH Council, which would provide the personnel to perform the tests and would be responsible for random name pulling.
“I believe it’s fair to say we probably have more than 1,000 students in grades seven through 12 involved in extracurricular activities,” said Lee Auvenshine, the district’s human resources and legal services deputy superintendent, at the June 8 meeting. “The subcommittee felt it was wise to have as broad a definition as possible of extracurricular activities, and we talked to our council and our council agreed and they provided, essentially, a model policy they believe meets legal muster that can withstand any kind of appeal on that definition. That definition would include everything from fine arts, to competitions such as robotics. You name it. If you’re engaged in an extracurricular activity, including buying a permit to park at the high school or at Global High School, prior to engaging in any of those activities, you as the student, would have your parent voluntarily consent to permit you to a random drug test.”
The SHAC recommended all students in grades seven through 12 should be required to consent to random drug testing prior to participation in any extracurricular programs, including parking on school campuses, according to the proposal given to board members.
Currently, UIL does random drug testing for anabolic steroids, but the WISD testing policy would look for 11 different families of drugs, Auvenshine said at the meeting, and should be performed by a properly licensed third-party entity. The tests would be conducted in a manner in which the results could withstand appeal, SHAC representatives and Auvenshine said at the meeting. The district does have the option of looking elsewhere if the REACH Council is not the third-party entity officials would like to use because of the testing price, Auvenshine said in a previous Daily Light article.
The following are the recommended sanctions for students who fail the drug test, as stated in the proposal:
First Offense – Parental notification, 10 school days prohibition from participation, including practice and competition, from all extracurricular activities, including parking and two educational advisory sessions (approximately 45 minutes each)
Second Offense – Parental notification, 90 school days prohibition from participation, including practice and competition, from all extracurricular activities, including parking and four to five educational advisory sessions (approximately 45minutes each)
Third Offense – Parental notification, 180 school days prohibition from participation, including practice and competition, from all extracurricular activities, including parking and four to five educational advisory sessions (approximately 45minutes each)
For out-of-season offenses, the period of prohibition particular to the extracurricular activities applicable to the student will begin once competition begins in the applicable extracurricular activities.
“There’s been hours and hours and hours of looking at this stuff and the reasons why, and hopefully in July we’ll have more time to discuss this,” said board member Gary Fox at the June meeting. “I want everybody on the board to be aware of all these things we’ve discussed so they, too, will have knowledge of what’s going on with the SHAC.”
If parents didn’t sign a consent form prior to any extracurricular activity, then students wouldn’t be allowed to participate, if that’s what the board approves, Auvenshine said.
“If you’re going to leave our campus and represent WISD, then that’s how broad the definition would read,” Auvenshine said in June. “That has been done by other districts and that can be done, and our council believes it would withstand any kind of legal scrutiny.”
Auvenshine said if someone is found under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the school day, he or she is subject to discipline and criminal sanctions. Yet, the mere failing of a drug screening doesn’t mean he or she is immediately under the influence, but that a student is engaging in illegal activity that the school district could keep the student from participating in extracurricular activities.
“There’s no probable cause or reason to go through and just subject all students to tests,” Auvenshine said in June. “Of course, any student under the influence of drugs, any student under the influence of alcohol will be subject to discipline and subject to criminal sanction, but there would be no reason to randomly test the average student, unless you link to some activity in which you’re concerned about safety.”
The goal is about rehabilitation and implementing a positive peer pressure, Auvenshine said, meaning students would have a positive deterrent should they be encouraged to take drugs at a party or with friends.
“They can look at their friends and say, ‘No, no. I’m playing sports this year. I’m in this music, or drama, or academic activity this year. I’m not going to let my teammates down and not participate in that activity. I’m not going to take drugs,’” Auvenshine said in June. “I don’t believe we have an overwhelming drug problem running through our schools.”
However, the district did do surveys through the junior high, ninth grade and high school campuses, and found students perceived drugs were available and easy to access, Auvenshine said.
“I believe it’s fair to say that the percentage of drug users in our schools is more with people that are not involved in extracurricular, than those that are involved in extracurricular,” said Floyd Bates, the WISD board vice president, in the June meeting. “That’s just an opinion. I don’t know if that’s fact or not. I have yet to see a survey based on that.”
As for the police department, the SHAC recommended in June that the board should vote yes to creating its own police department. Back during the LRPC meetings in the fall semester, LRPC members brought up concerns but still recommended the board work with administration and the SHAC to explore the creation of either a police department or a security resource officer (SRO) on every campus through a partnership with the Waxahachie Police Department. The LRPC recommendation followed several school-related threats within the past year and a half where the district placed a security officer on every campus. Currently, that officer spends the morning, midday and late afternoon walking the campus as a visible presence to make sure children are safe.
“One thing to consider when we’re talking SRO and an internal police department, in terms of an SRO program versus it being an internal police department, I’ll put one word on it for lack of a better word and that’s 'control.' Who controls or manages who these people are and what they’re doing? It’s a very difficult chore when you have to manage an outsourced employee,” said Ryder Appleton, the district’s support services director, back in November. “The salaries are split either way, and it creates a conflict of interest for the officer if his commission is being carried by Waxahachie PD, but there’s a situation that needs to be addressed from the school district’s standpoint. It can kind of put an SRO in a quandary.”