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Last month the Roane County Board of Education approved the first reading of a revision to its policy on drug testing for student athletes. The revised policy would take effect if the board approves it on second reading this month.
“What we’re taking out of the policy actually does make it stronger,” Board Member Wade McCullough said.
The revision will remove the opt-out clause in the policy and make all student athletes subject to random drug testing.
McCullough, Vic King, Darrell “Drack” Langley, Mike Taylor, Sam Cox, Hugh Johnson, Everett Massengill and Rob Jago voted for the revised policy on first reading.
Mike “Brillo” Miller and Danny Wright voted against it. Both said they favored mandatory testing.
“I think the word the lawyers get nervous over is mandatory,” McCullough said.
Miller said he is concerned about a student athlete with a drug problem not getting help because he wasn’t picked for a random test.
“It’s not about catching someone,” Miller said. “It’s about trying to help somebody.”
“The other thing that I worry about is, what if we’ve got a kid that’s in trouble, we don’t know it and he plays a football game and dies because of it?” Miller added. “That concerns me.”
School officials did some research and found that Roane County is one of the few school systems in the area that does drug testing for student athletes.
“I really don’t care what the rest of the systems are doing,” Wright said. “I’m concerned about what Roane County does.”
McCullough, whom Miller referred to as the board’s policy expert, said the school system consulted with attorneys about the revised policy.
“That is from the attorneys that we’re being told that we cannot make it a mandatory test,” McCullough said.
The opt-out clause was added to the policy on Oct. 23, 2008, weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent school officials a threatening letter that said a parent planned to take legal action against the system if the policy wasn’t changed.
The ACLU cited a 2007 opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr.
“The controlling statute ... allows drug testing of a student only when there are reasonable indications to the principal that the student may have used or may be under the influence of drugs,” Cooper opined. “Random drug testing violates that statute.”