• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Director of School Safety supports drug testing policy

The Kentucky Center for School Safety's executive director disagrees with anyone who argues that a drug policy does not stop kids from using drugs. J on Akers said his personal experience tells him otherwise. Kids have told him they've said no to drugs because they were subject to random drug testing as a student-athlete, he said. In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that schools could randomly drug test student-athletes. In 2002, the court expanded drug testing to include students involved in extracurricular activities. Akers was principal at Dunbar High School in 1996 when the Lexington school became the first in Kentucky to adopt a mandatory drug testing policy for student-athletes. Parents, whom he described as "incredibly supportive," came to him asking for a drug testing policy, which also included a drug prevention program for students subject to the random urine testing. Under the policy implemented at Dunbar, Akers said he informed the parents when a student tested positive for drugs, and suggested their son or daughter see a substance abuse counselor on the first offense. "It's not punitive. It's trying to get the kid help when the kid is not reaching out for help or the parents really don't know what's going on," said Akers. Typically, drug use is a symptom of a much deeper issue, such as depression, he said. A second positive drug test under Dunbar's policy would result in a student losing athletic or extracurricular activity eligibility for a short period of time while also being subject to longer-term counseling; with a third positive resulting in them losing the privilege of participating in sports or other extracurricular activities for the remainder of the year, he said. "In my remaining four years at Dunbar, we had probably 12 positives. The rest of them were negatives," said Akers. "And the positives were students who I would not have ever thought would be engaged in any kind of drug activity." Akers conducted a survey of Kentucky schools several years ago and determined 90 of 173 school districts had adopted a drug testing policy for students who participate in athletics or some sort of extracurricular activity. He did not find any school district that adopted a policy allowing random drug testing of any student enrolled at the school. With the proliferation of heroin and other dangerous opioids in today's society, Akers said, "It's more critical now than ever before" to prevent students from using drugs of any kind - even marijuana, which is now legal in some states. He said drug use remains the number one safety issue in Kentucky's schools. In June, Woodford County Board of Education member Margie Cleveland urged other school board members and schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins "to move quickly" on developing a drug testing policy for students here. She explained the urgency during a telephone interview on Tuesday. "We're all well aware of the drug issues, not only in Woodford County but in the area. And if we can control our school environment by drug testing (students) ... we're making a difference in the community," said Cleveland. She said a drug testing policy also gives students an incentive not to use drugs.

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