By Margie Wuebker
MARIA STEIN -- One extracurricular organization will not be included in a drug testing policy that goes into effect later this year in the Marion Local School District.
The board of education Monday night unanimously approved a policy revision dropping the band from a list of those subject to random testing.
The action comes one month after board members bit the bullet and adopted a policy after months of discussion. The original policy applied to all athletes, cheerleaders, marching/concert band members and athletic trainers in grades 7-12 beginning in the 2005-2006 school year.
Athletes, cheerleaders and athletic trainers sign a pledge to refrain from alcohol, tobacco and other contraband according to a longstanding tradition in the district. Band members, on the other hand, have no such policy.
"The revision is consistent with the recommendation of our attorney," Superintendent Dr. Andy Smith said. "We feel the administration of this policy, particularly in the first year, should apply to those groups who have signed pledges in the past." The board would have the discretion to add the band or other extracurricular groups in subsequent years, according to Smith. The policy is viewed as a deterrent rather than a sign of drug problems in the district.
A cost analysis indicates a projected cost of $12,000 if up to 10 percent of all those eligible are randomly tested throughout the course of each sports season. That could amount to a total of 800 tests depending on the desired frequency.
Great Lakes Biomedical, the Perrysburg company chosen to oversee the testing program, offers a two-panel test that checks for two designated drugs at a cost of $11. A more comprehensive test runs $15. The most common drugs targeted during such testing include cocaine, opiates, marijuana, Ecstasy, amphetamines, methamphetamine, PCP and methadone.
"In my honest opinion, I think the school should pick up the cost during the first year," board member Ron Winner said.
Fellow board member Larry Reichert suggested approaching the school's athletic department or athletic council about picking up a portion of the cost.
The Marion Local Athletic Council and the Marion Local Student Advisory Council initially proposed drug testing as a means of deterring students from using drugs and obtaining help for those identified as abusing drugs.
Smith will obtain information from athletic director Stan Wilker and/or athletic council representatives before making a decision on who foots the bill.