New drug policy to begin 2017-18 school year

Persephone Means, Editor

Recently, a new policy was passed for the Iola High School by the Board of Education that requires all students to agree to random drug testing. This policy was proposed by next year’s principal, Scott Crenshaw, and passed with a unanimous vote. Why did Crenshaw introduce this new policy to the high school? “Surrounding states have legalized marijuana and it is becoming more of an ‘accepted’ activity. Research says it’s not a good or healthy choice. There’s a lot of research that claims it’s a gateway drug, which leads to other drug usage. So, that was my big purpose: to address the normalcy of drug use,” says Crenshaw.

A lot of students have expressed their concerns about this new policy. It will not affect students who refrain from the use of illegal drugs. “This is part of the school district’s strategic plan to make students college and career ready. This policy is nothing different than they’ll face in 95 percent of all employment situations. The board was very encouraged by the fact that this is going to be a real life situation, where a random drug test is a part of a gainfully employed person’s life, at least for most companies,” explains Crenshaw. According to, “More than half of employers (57 percent) conduct drug tests on all job candidates, while only 29 percent do not conduct drug tests on any job candidates,” according to a poll released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in collaboration with and commissioned by the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA).

An official policy is out and will be implemented into next year’s IHS handbook, and will also be discussed at enrollment. If a student refuses to sign the release, then they will not be allowed to participate in any school activities such as sports, school dances, clubs, or other academic teams. If a student tests positive, consequences will follow. “First offense is two weeks of no competition, but you can still practice with your team. Second offense is 30 days of no practice and no competition. For students not in sports, the first offense is two weeks no school activities like no dance, no homecoming, no going to sports to be a spectator… It’s just a suspension of student activity rights. Second offense is 30 days of no school activities. Third offense is 365 days suspension from student activities. With each of those steps, we would like to incorporate a drug education program. The student will be asked to take a drug education program, attend and complete, and bring a certificate of completion back. If a student tests positive, they will no longer be in the random pool, but into a ‘test at will’ pool. We want to make sure that they’re still on the right track. We don’t have to wait for a random drawing again, and we can simply say, ‘Since you tested positive and it’s been 45 or 60 days, that’s enough time to get it out of your system.’ We want to see if you’re still positive and if you’ve made a turn and are staying away,” says Crenshaw.

If a student fails a drug test, they will not have any academic punishments. “None of the consequences associated with the policy have anything to do with academic punishment. There is no ISS and no suspensions from school. This has to do with a student’s ability to engage in school activities. We didn’t want it to focus on being academically punishing. We wanted it to be a teaching tool and a positive influence and impact in the student’s life,” says Crenshaw.

Others students fear that a positive test may ruin their chances of acceptance into a good college, scholarship opportunities may be squashed, or that other students may find out. “According to the policy that was adopted, the parents will be notified but this has nothing to do with the law. This is a school issue. The only people that will know about a positive test will be the administrators, the student, and their parent(s),” says Crenshaw. A positive result will not go on your permanent school record or transcript.

If a student fails the drug test, they will not have to worry about their locker, bag/backpack, or car being checked. Crenshaw says, “This test is designed with the intentions to give students a reason or someone to blame for not participating in drug usage. To have a tool against peer pressure and to be able to say, ‘No, I’m on the football team,’ or, ‘No, I’m in forensics,’ or, ‘No, I want to go to the school dance.’ ‘I can’t cave into peer pressure and do this because if I get caught there’s going to be a consequence.’ So, what I told the board was that I wanted [students] to blame us, I wanted [students] to blame me. And that’s real life. Whenever they go in for a job they’re going to be drug tested almost everywhere. And if they want to keep that job, they will probably be more apt to say, ‘I can’t do that because my job drug tests and I’m not going to risk my job.’

Jaime Westervelt is the sponsor for Drug Free Communities (DFC), an organization which focuses on preventing drug usage throughout the high school and the community. “We both have the ultimate goal of drug prevention,” says Westervelt. “The kids that test positive will get the treatment and attention they need and will give them a way to get out. It will help provide a safer environment for the students.”

Crenshaw also comments, “I just would like for the word to be out that this can be viewed as a very positive situation. It’s not punitive and it’s not negative. It is proactive because we care about kids. We want kids to have the strength, ability, and the tools they need to be able to say no to peer pressure for drugs. All the statistics show that the more drug usage a student has, you have an increase in absenteeism, a decrease in most grades, and typically it affects other areas of a student’s life. If we can do something proactively, to help the one that is kind of on the edge, the one that’s contemplating it, saying, ‘Oh good, now I can not be called names for not doing it. I have an excuse.’ Then, we can pull that person back from the precipice.”