Perrysburg extends drug testing plan

PERRYSBURG – High school students wanting to kick, pass or park at school will have to undergo drug
testing under a policy now being considered by the Board of Education.
Drug testing for athletes has been on the district’s agenda since late last year. The district is one of
six to have received part of federal grant obtained by the Wood County Educational Service Center. The
district’s share of the $175,000 grant is $34,000.
The policy presented to the Board of Education Monday night by Superintendent Tom Hosler extends the
classes of student from just athletes to those who have parking permits at the high school.
The board gave the policy a first reading. It is expected to vote on the policy at its morning meeting on
July 7.
Drivers were added to the policy, Hosler explained, at the suggestion of a number of those who spoke at
an informational session in April.
Hosler said that parents said that driving posed more of a safety issue than sports. Driving to school
"is not a right, it’s a privilege," Hosler said.
While school officials at first thought requiring drug testing for drivers would be more controversial,
the reaction at the public meeting prompted them to reconsider. "It became clear – why not do that
if you have the ability?" he said.
The policy was also revised to eliminate a provision that would have allowed parents of students not
covered by the policy to request their children be tested. Hosler said members of the committee studying
the policy decided that this was not the district’s responsibility, and that suspicious parents had
other options available to them.
The policy takes a more lenient approach with students who agree to undergo counseling, either by
self-reporting drug usage or when caught by the test, than the zero-tolerance policy now in the
district’s code of conduct. Instead of being barred from the sport, they will miss only 20 percent of
their games, and will be allowed to continue practicing with the team.
"The focus," Hosler said, "is on prevention not punishment."
Hosler said that coaches have said that their current zero-tolerance policy is counter-productive. The
athletic team, with coaches and their peers, offers students struggling with drug abuse a supportive
setting to stay straight. "We’re saying we want you to learn from your mistake," the
superintendent said.
Board member Gretchen Downs said she received a call from a mother who related that a policy of allowing
students struggling with drugs to stay on the team if they get counseling could have redirected her
child’s life. The child was caught drinking and removed from a sport. The child never tried out again,
and this, the mother said, negatively affected the course the child’s life.
Hosler also said district officials will now extend that more lenient policy to other school activities
not covered by the mandatory drug testing.
Resident Bob Walker, who has two children who have graduated from the system, said: "I don’t think
it’s a proven or good idea."
He presented Board President Val Hovland with a 21-page report summarizing his research into mandatory
drug testing policies.
"I have not found anything to make me believe these programs are effective," said Walker, who
also spoke at length against the proposal at the public meeting.
He warned that the district could be vulnerable to legal challenges on two sections of the policy, the
one that allows testing athletes out of season, which is less a problem, and more seriously the
provision calling for testing during the summer.
Walker also contended that fewer students would try out for athletics because they object to the invasion
of privacy or students with problems who will decide it’s not worth the risk.
That would be unfortunate, he said, because the best way to combat drug and alcohol abuse is to get
students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities and that’s where the district should
put its efforts.
Hosler said that the drug testing "is not a magic bullet … it’s one piece of the overall
puzzle."
That includes D.A.R.E. in lower grades and health classes.
The drug testing offers students, he said, "one more reason to say no."