July 28, 2015.
Alabaster school district’s revised substance abuse policies
Alabaster school district’s revised substance abuse policies provide opportunities for corrective actions that allow students who test positive for drugs or alcohol to receive help and regain the ability to park on campus or participate in extracurricular activities.
Approved by the school board on Monday night, the new policies continue to require random drug and alcohol testing of students from seventh through 12th grades who are participating in extracurricular activities or parking on campus.
The district has a policy pertaining to students in extracurricular activities and one for students who park on campus. The change from the previous policies involves the consequences resulting from testing positive for the prohibited substances.
“We have had a student test positive the first time and they were out for a minimum of seven weeks” from participating in activities, Alabaster Student Services Coordinator Dorann Tanner said about the previous consequence for first-time violations.
“Then if they tested positive the second time, they were done for their career at Thompson. I felt like that was really punitive. This policy to me should not be punitive. It should be preventive and get them help,” Tanner said in an interview.
Here’s how the new substance abuse policies work for students:
First offense: Depending on which policy they violate, students are prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities or parking on campus for 30 calendar days for their first positive test.
They also must complete a substance abuse assessment. “That assessment may recommend they do drug education classes, it may recommend they do substance abuse treatment,” Tanner said.
By completing the recommended action in the assessment and testing negative for drugs or alcohol, the student can return to the barred activity before the 30-day period expires.
Second offense: Testing positive a second time means the student, depending on the policy violation, cannot participate in either extracurricular activities or park on campus for the calendar year starting from the date of the test results.
“But if they complete the substance abuse assessment and they test negative, then they can return back to activity,” Tanner said.
Third offense: “They’re done,” Tanner said about the student losing the ability to either park on campus or participate in activities, again depending on the policy violated.
“We’re going to encourage them to get help and to do the substance abuse assessment, but they won’t earn their privileges back. We felt like we eventually have to draw the line. We thought the third line would be fair and hopefully no student would ever get there because we have two opportunities to intervene,” Tanner said.
The Alabaster school district had been operating under Shelby County Board of Education’s policy following separation in 2013, but Tanner earlier this year began exploring what other districts around the state are doing with their policies.
“My goal for the substance abuse policy is to be preventive and to give kids an out,” she said. “They can say, ‘I can’t do that (because) I can get tested.’ That’s my number one goal for it is to be preventive.”
However, her second goal was “to get them help. I want to get them involved in something so they can get involved (in education) about the dangers of substance abuse and how to stop if they get in over their head.”
Alabaster school district uses a company to perform random drug and alcohol screenings throughout the year. “We try to test everyone that’s in the random pool one time a year at least,” Tanner said.
“We want this policy to be something kids respect and know about. We felt the best way to do that is for every kid to get at least one test a year,” she said. “I hope they’re concerned enough they will not ever use and just say no. But if they do and they mess up, they can still work their way back and get the help they need.”