PLATTE COUNTY, Mo. - The West Platte School District board voted to adopt a random drug testing program. The new policy means students in grades 7 through 12 will be subject to random drug tests, if they choose to opt into the program..
Prior to the vote, West Platte public schools did not have a drug testing program. The board approved the new policy on Sept. 20.
Students have until Oct. 15 to opt into the drug testing program. Students choosing not sign up for random drug testing, will not be allowed to participate in any extracurricular school activities or park in the school parking lot.
Dr. Jerrod Wheeler, West Platte Superintendent, stated that there is a drug problem in Platte County and the Just say No to Drugs program is not having the desired effect.
"With this drug testing policy we're empowering students to say no to drugs because they want to be able to participate in sports and the marching band and other student clubs and activities," explained Wheeler.
Random drug testing will begin at West Platte schools in early November An independent drug testing company will select 10 students a month to be tested. Officials said students will not be targeted, but the selected students will be tested for 12 drugs including marijuana, cocaine, steroids and a variety of prescription drugs.
"The first offense for a student testing positive is 30-days suspension from extracurricular activities," said Wheeler. "The second offense is a 60-day suspension from extracurricular activities," he added.
While the student loses privileges for activities, the student will continue to attend school and will not miss any classes.
Halle Settles, a senior at West Platte High School said she will opt into the drug testing program.
"I like the fact that it's random and students are not targeted because people think they might be on drugs," said Settles.
Tyler Shipman is a junior at West Platte High School. He believes the drug testing program will make his school a safer environment.
"It's just the right thing to do," he said. "It's illegal to do drugs and students shouldn't have privileges if they choose to break the law," Shipman added.
West Platte School Board President, John Collier, voted against the random drug testing policy.
"I've read studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Oregon that show education is a more effective way to deter drug abuse than a random drug testing program," said Collier.
However, Superintendent Wheeler said that there are similar studies that show drug testing is more effective than education alone. Wheeler added that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the governments' interest in drug-free schools outweighs the students' fourth amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.
The drug testing program will cost the district $2,000 a year. Two West Platte businesses have volunteered to cover those expenses to support the fight against drug abuse and the battle for drug-free schools.