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New School Year; New Drug Testing

Updated: Wednesday, August 27 2014, 10:45 PM CDT

Jarrell ISD in Williamson County is fighting back against drugs.  It's a battle school districts nationwide face.  Jarrell's answer is random drug testing.

Outside the middle school you hear the sound of jackhammers and see bulldozers knocking down walls.  That's not the only changes coming to Jarrell schools.

Inside the walls Superintendent Dr. Bill Chapman is watching over another change. It's a policy change that subjects some students to random drug testing.  "It applies to students 7th through 12th who are involved in extracurricular activities, as well as students who drive," Dr. Chapman explains.

The change comes after parents expressed concerns to the school board. 

"The parents I guess were talking to school board members who then begin initiating the examination of what we could do, how it would work," Chapman continued.

All the parents we spoke to like the idea.  Dorthy Blackmon said she supports it because "it will get a lot of drugs out of our school."

But will it?  Most education officials acknowledge drugs are a problem.  Earlier this year Hutto School Resource Officer Sgt. Paul Leal said, "For us to say we don't have a problem we'd be lying."

Yet Georgetown ISD was the only other district in the Austin metro area we were able to confirm also has random drug testing.  The reason may be the mixed results.  A 2012 federal study showed little evidence that drug testing reduced drug use.  Another study published the same year in the journal adolescent health, showed students in schools with drug testing did use less. 

Dr. Chapman says that's the goal in Jarrell.  "It's done for prevention, it gives our students our kids involved in athletics, those who drive, those who are in band, those who cheer another way to say no." 

That means a safer learning environment whether the changes are to the physical buildings or in policy.  10 to 20 percent of eligible students will be tested each time the testers come in.  Those testers may visit the school up to 12 times a year.  If a test is positive, the parents meet with school, and students will lose right to drive or suspension from activity.

By Melanie Lofton

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New School Year; New Drug Testing

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