Athletes will be drug tested
Students participating in Willows High School sports will once again be subject to random drug testing beginning with this season's winter sports.
Although the school board implemented a drug testing program more than five years ago, athletes have not been subjected to testing is some time due to budget cuts, school officials said Thursday.
Athletics Director Ron Bazan said drug testing at the high school level offers students a way to say no to drugs and could serve as a deterrent.
"It comes down to making good choices," Bazan said. "If they want to play sports, this gives them an out from doing drugs."
The US Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that drug testing for high school athletes was constitutional, and many school districts have expanded their policies to include middle schools.
Bazan said he didn't have specific data on the prevalence of drug use at the Willows High School, but believes marijuana use by students is on the rise.
According to an August survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse, 60 percent of high school students say they attend a drug-infected school, where drugs are used, kept or sold on school grounds.
This year's survey took a deeper look into the world of teen social networking and found that 45 percent of teens (10.9 million) have seen pictures online of other teens getting drunk, passed out or using drugs.
Forty-seven percent of teens who saw pictures said it seemed like the teens in the pictures "were having a good time."
The drug tests performed on Willows High School athletes by the Glenn County Probation Department, will test for any substance considered illegal or controlled by the Food and Drug Administration, Bazan said.
Willows High School Principal Jerry Smith said 25 percent of the athletes, approximately 30 students, participating in boys and girls sports will be tested.
He said their names will be drawn by lot in the presence of a probation officer.
"It will be totally random," he said. "I don't want any student to think they are a target."
Bazan said funding for drug testing previously came from the athletics department, but that the high school can now tap into the state's safe school funding program.
The drug tests will cost the district about $4.50 each or about $150 per sports season.
"When it comes to budgets, it's all about priorities," Bazan said. "This is a priority because I think we are going to see a difference."
Although the testing is not intended to be punitive, a positive drug test will result in notification of the parent and a 40 day suspension from sports, he said.
"There will be no criminal action," Bazan said.
Smith said the district chose the 40-day suspension as added inspiration for a student not to use drugs, as the suspension will not only knock an athlete out of the current sports season, but likely lap into the following season.
Depending on available funding, the high school may look also into making drug testing mandatory for participation in school-sponsored clubs, Smith said.
Although drug testing in high school has been highly controversial and prompted various lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, Willows Unified School District trustee Michelle Knight said she approved of the policy because it also serves to provide students that are found to be using drugs help in locating programs that can provide them with assistance.
"It's an opportunity to do some early intervention," Knight said.
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