FARMINGTON — A decision of the Davis School Board to allow random drug testing, though controversial at the time, has had a positive impact, according to district leaders.
After the first year of implementation, board members were given a report on the numbers and heard anecdotal evidence on its effectiveness at a workshop meeting on Tuesday.
Urine samples were taken from 1,373 students, selected randomly over the year. Of those, 29 samples came back positive. In follow-up testing, only two were still positive.
The tests are only administered to student athletes, cheer squad members and student leaders.
Students are informed of the testing and sign waivers at the start of their extracurricular programs.
If they test positive, students are given the opportunity to call their parents and though they can still attend practices, they can’t play in games until they test clean.
“This program is non-punitive,” said Jay Welk, athletic director at Davis High, who next year will serve as the district’s supervisor of healthy lifestyles, a position how held by John Robison.
Law enforcement is not notified, information is not forwarded to administrators or colleges, he said.
“It’s just a way to inform parents,” he said.
Board member Kathie Bone said she received an anonymous letter from a grateful parent whose child had tested positive.
“Thank you for saving my student’s life,” she said the letter said.
Mark Archer, of Liquid Solutions, the company that administers the tests, said he gets emails of appreciation from parents and recently had a young woman say thanks as well.
He quoted her as saying:
“I don’t know where my life would be if you weren’t doing the testing. It’s a great excuse for me to say ‘no, I’m not going to participate.’”
Kaestle Charlesworth, student board member for the 2013-14 school year, said she has seen an impact as well.
“I’ve seen kids say, ‘I could be tested,’” she said. “Some have dropped out (of activities) but I think it has cleaned up a lot of kids who have not been tested but they know that they could be.”
Charlesworth said she was excited when her name was randomly selected for a drug test, so she could have the chance to see how it worked.
No other students knew why she was called to the office, she said, and the procedure just took a few minutes and the results (negative) were immediate.
Students, she said, can choose whether to tell friends they were tested. She knows two who were tested multiple times but said she has heard no complaints.
Archer said he has received multiple emails from parents asking if he could test their child, even if he or she is not involved in a sport. He does not do outside testing of students, but gives parents ideas on what they can do.
School board member Larry Smith asked if data was available on sport, gender or school of students, but was informed that information could violate privacy concerns.
He questioned involving ninth graders in the testing, but was told that if students play on high school teams, they are included in the random pool.
Smith and Lovato asked if it would be better to test all students randomly.
If there is suspicion of abuse, any student can be tested. But the deterrent of non-participation cannot be used with students in school, according to staff.
“We’re not looking to find all the kids that are using,” said school board president Tamara Lowe. “We’re looking to deter kids from taking.”
Leaders have seen a ripple effect from athletes to fellow students. One coach said he’d seen a difference in the locker room.
“If we look at the first year, we’re very pleased with a lot of the things we’ve seen,” said Robison. “The greatest part of this is that kids now have an excuse to say ‘no’ on a Saturday night.”