Random Drug Testing in Sylvania Schools

. November 8, 2019.
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A matter of perspective

Students who participate in extracurricular activities at the two Sylvania High Schools began the school year with the knowledge that they can be directed to participate in a private, random drug test.

Like many school policies, the random drug testing is not 100% endorsed by the community. School officials, however, claim it gives teenagers a tool to combat peer pressure.

“This policy allows students an opportunity to say ‘no’ to their peers without the social stigma that can happen at this age,” said Mark Pugh, Northview High School principal. At Sylvania Southview, principal Kasey Vens added, “Having this policy in place for students in all extracurricular activities encourages them to make wise and healthy choices.”

Stacey Rapino, mother of two Sylvania students (one in junior high and one in elementary), said she is against the new policy, viewing it as an invasion of privacy. “I don’t want to answer to anyone about what I’m giving my child. Even prescription medicines, like those for ADHD, will show up,” said Rapino, who obtained 525 signatures from other community members on a petition against the new policy which she presented to the Sylvania Schools Board of Education. “I realize we can explain what the medicine is for and the child won’t be held responsible, but it’s really none of their (the school’s) business.”

After a parent and student sign a consent form, which is required before the student can participate in any school-sponsored extracurricular activity, a student is assigned a number. Numbers are then randomly drawn by a computer, 20 names each month per school, during school hours.

Tim Zieroff, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Affairs for Sylvania Schools, said student privacy is a priority. Students are called to the office if their number is drawn, and an outside company, Great Lakes Biomedical, conducts the urine tests using a private restroom at each school.

If student tests positive

If a test result is positive, indicating the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or over-the-counter or prescription drugs being used in any way other than for prescribed purposes, a school representative will notify the student and their parents or guardian. The student who provided the positive test result will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities for one calendar year.

Rapino said she agrees that athletes who do contact sports should be tested because of the risk of steroid use. “We are talking life-threatening injuries with kids who do sports and we don’t want them pumped up on drugs. But what about the kid who does drama or Quiz Bowl – what kind of harm can they do?”

Lisa Mains, who has two students who attend Northview, said she refused to sign the random drug testing consent form because of the way the policy is written. She said the Student Informed Consent Agreement loosely states the consequences of having a positive test result but doesn’t clearly spell out how the test will be conducted, who reviews the test results and what a student can do to be reinstated.

“The policy is stupid and it’s proven (that) drug tests do nothing to actually address the problem,” Mains said. “I don’t trust the board and not one of them have kids (attending schools) in the district, so I doubt they even care.”

Mains also takes issue with a line in the policy that states: “The Athletic Director under the Principal’s supervision, will use a system to ensure that students are selected in a random fashion. “The Athletic Director?” she said. “If your kid is in orchestra, why would the athletic director be involved? Makes no sense. Then you must question, ‘Will the quarterback get pulled or the hockey team?’”

Another Sylvania parent, Jeff Schak, said he agrees with the drug testing policy and feels that participation in an extracurricular activity is a privilege as it puts students in the public eye. “We need to ensure our children’s safety and their responsibility to promote themselves as positive role models for the younger students,” he said. Schak cited the opioid epidemic as another reason he agrees with the drug testing. “I feel like it can be utilized as an early warning system,” he said.

Federal money used

Zieroff said the district has budgeted $16,000 that allows about 40 students to be tested each month at both high schools for the 2019-20 school year. It will be allocated through Title IV Federal Funds and not out of the general fund, he said. The school board will continue to evaluate the tests before deciding to institute them for the next school year.

The first batch of random tests at each high school came back negative for drug use, according to Zieroff. “Students have been cooperative,” he said of the tests that were administered in the last few weeks. “It’s tough being a kid today. This gives them a reason to say ‘no.’”

Zieroff said Sylvania Schools, until this year, was the only district in the Northern Lakes League, other than Bowling Green, that was not doing random drug tests. The other schools in the league include Anthony Wayne, Maumee, Napoleon, Perrysburg and Springfield.