By Miranda Downe
In response to parental complaints of drug use among students and a growing number of students receiving mandatory attendance to alternative school due to drug related offenses, the school board re-initiated random drug testing for the 2017-18 school year.
“I applaud Dr. Wright and the board for really taking a proactive approach to tackling this,” AISD police chief Paul Cairney said. “There’s going to be pressures for people to try [drugs] and use [them], and we just want to make sure there’s an opportunity for people to say, you know what, we don’t want to do this because we know what the consequences could be.”
Targeting students participating in a UIL event, any school sponsored extracurricular activity, and/or parking on campus, the program is executed through Forward Edge, a Third Party Administrator for school districts in Texas.
“It’s completely random; I don’t even get to see it,” principal James Hill said. “The drug company has the numbers. We send them a list of all our kids’ names, and they assign a number to every kid. They pull up the names, then bring them to me, and we’ve got to get them out of class and take them to the office.”
Students can be selected at any time, and a small group experienced this on Oct. 9 in the first round of testing.
“It was not very fun,” a drug tested student said. “They sent you into the restroom with a cup, and then you had to give it back. It was just really weird.”
The district receives results within 24 hours— if positive results arise, a three strike system ensues. On first offense, students are subject to parental notification and drug counseling, followed by a second drug test within 30 days. Two positive tests induce a 14 day suspension from UIL and extracurricular activities and parking on campus, accompanied by additional counseling and drug testing. A third positive test evokes suspension from participation for a full year.
“We don’t want people to get in trouble; that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Cairney said. “What we’re trying to do is find out who’s using it, then use methods such as counseling to get people to stop using it if it becomes a huge problem. We don’t want people to even get started in doing drugs because it’s just a nasty, nasty chain of events. Once people get started, they have a hard time leaving it behind.”
Although the district already conducts searches with Kiro, the drug dog, additional services can track student drug use off campus.
“If people know that the dog is out there, they’re not going to be as likely to bring drugs onto campus,” Cairney said. “If they know they can be tested, then they’re much less likely to use them to begin with, so it’s just a great way to give people an excuse to not ever get started.”
Large developments like Harvest and Canyon Falls within the Argyle School District bring on an influx of new students for the district to be held accountable for.
“I think as we grow, we’re going to see more and more issues with drugs and alcohol, and this is a way to address it before it gets to the point that it’s out of control,” US history teacher Sharon Romero said. “When I grew up we had random drug testing, and it was just standard. When I first started teaching at Argyle, we had random drug testing, so they’re just bringing it back.”
Just as it was in its past years in effect, the random drug testing administration is questioned on its true randomness, and students see more efficient ways to track drug use within the school.
“I mean they don’t test very many kids, so it just feels like more of a fear of oh there’s drug testing, so I shouldn’t do that,” the drug tested student said. “It may work to an extent, but maybe isn’t extremely effective. [A better way would be to] encourage students to come forward if they see other people using because the people who know the most about it are the students.”
Other concerns lie in the question of the magnitude of drug issues in Argyle.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Are drugs a bad, bad problem at Argyle High School?’ and of course they’re a problem, but they’re not terrible,” Cairney said. “The point is we don’t want to wait until it gets to that point before we start addressing it.”
Random drug testing will be funded for the duration of the 2017-18 school year and will continue on a basis of effectiveness in curbing student drug use.
“We’re not going to be passive about people using drugs,” Cairney said. “We really want to get the message out that it’s best to not even start.”
Miranda Downe is Managing Editor of The Talon News, Argyle High School’s student newspaper.