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Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

District eyes drug testing for athletes

Fort Recovery

By Kathy Thompson
FORT RECOVERY - School officials are researching whether to implement random drug testing for high school athletes beginning this fall.
Athletic director Kurt Rammel told school board members Tuesday night he has been reviewing similar policies at two other area schools. Marion Local has been testing athletes since 2005; New Bremen recently approved a policy that includes nearly all students being subjected to random testing.
Rammel told board members he believes adopting a policy would be a good idea for Fort Recovery.
"In my mind, there is no reason not to test," he said. "It's financially sound and it's a great scare tactic."
Rammel told board members approximately 65 urine tests would be completed each year if 20 percent of the athletes were subject to random testing each season. Urine tests would cost the district $5 to $10 each, he said. Currently, 257 students are registered for at least one high school sport.
Rammel said he looked into testing via hair samples but said it's not as reliable.
"If a student is sitting near someone smoking marijuana, the residue could get in the student's hair and they would test positive even though they had not actually smoked," he said. "So I think the urine tests, while they can sometimes be time consuming, are the best option."
Board member Ginny Fortkamp asked if students - even though they would be chosen randomly - would feel "picked on" if their name repeatedly was drawn for the tests.
"That's the beauty of the testing," Rammel said. "It keeps everyone on their toes and no one knows exactly who gets picked. I think if a student gets upset, then it's going to be at us, the administration, and we'll make it very clear that the names are being picked at random. It's just the way it is. I don't think that will be an issue."
If the board approves such a policy, students who test positive the first time would be suspended for three meets if participating in cross country, swimming and track; five games if participating in golf, volleyball, softball and baseball; two games for football; two games if cheerleading for football; and five games if cheerleading for basketball.
First-time offenders also would be required to successfully complete two components of a Substance Abuse Intervention Program. They would be given four options - watch a video specific to the violation and pass a test on the content; complete a minimum of eight hours community service; conduct an interview with a person who has had a negative experience with alcohol, tobacco or drugs; and/or prepare and deliver a presentation to a younger sports team or athletes based on research on the effects of alcohol or drugs.
A second violation would include a suspension of 50 percent of the games scheduled for that sport and completion of two to four of the intervention programs. A third or subsequent violations would suspend the student from athletics for a full calendar year with a referral to counseling and educational resources to modify the behavior.
Students refusing to participate in the testing would immediately be subject to the first violation consequences, Rammel said. No second tests would be given to students who do not show up for the first test, he added.
If a student objects to the test results, he or she may retake a test within three days at his or her own expense, Rammel said.
He assured board members all testing would remain confidential.
"But if a child misses two games there will be 5,000 stories going around," Rammel said. "We just know that we won't be releasing the test results or giving out press releases about them."
No action was taken regarding the proposed policy. Rammel said he will report back to the board after further research.
In other action by the board,
• Laura Heitkamp was hired as a fourth-grade reading and science teacher.
• Chris Guggenbiller was hired as varsity boys basketball coach and will teach fifth-grade science and social studies.
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