More than 300 Clover student-athletes have tested clean for illicit drugs in the first round of the district's new drug-testing program, school officials say.
Of the 307 student-athletes tested in 13 fall sports teams, only one test came back positive for drugs, Superintendent Marc Sosne said. That positive test was the result of a prescription that included codeine, Sosne said, and no action was taken against the student.
Clover High School athletics director Carroll Hester said no students have said they won't participate in sports because of the testing.
"Everybody participated," Hester said. "There were none that came to the state where they said, 'We're not going to do this.'"
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Clover is one of at least seven South Carolina school systems that have begun screening students for the use of illegal drugs or performance-enhancing substances. The Clover policy -- which calls for all student-athletes to be tested for drugs at the beginning of each sport's season, with random testing after that -- was approved this summer after lengthy debate.
More school systems are beginning to adopt the practice. Last month, Rock Hill schools began exploring whether to test student athletes.
"I feel very good about it," Sosne said last week of the results. "I'm trying not to be a Pollyanna. I'm trying not to believe our kids are perfect.
"We are very confident that there are kids who are doing inappropriate things at the school," he said. "But the drug-testing policy was designed to be preventative and it was designed to be a very positive thing for us to send a message to students, that if you are going to be participating in one of our athletic teams, that we expect you to be drug- and alcohol-free."
Although some Clover parents raised concerns about the issue of privacy when the policy was debated, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld school districts' right to test students.
Safety concerns for high school students in interscholastic sports outweigh any minimal loss of privacy, the court ruled in 1995. In 2002, the court extended that ruling to extracurricular activities of all kinds.
Sosne said the Clover school board decided to test athletes first and decide later if testing should be expanded to students involved in other extracurricular activities -- such as band, chorus and student clubs.
"This is sort of a test group," he said about athletes.
Sosne said the district has hired Keystone substance abuse prevention services to conduct the testing, which is done by urinalysis and costs about $6 per student. About $10,000 was budgeted this year for the testing and related services such as substance abuse counseling, in case that is necessary, he said.
Under the new policy, all student-athletes are tested at the beginning of each sport's season at an unannounced date. After the first test of all students, some students will be randomly chosen for further tests, he said.
Students who test positive for drugs but can provide a valid prescription or a doctor's note to show they are taking a medication that would cause the positive test will face no consequences under the policy.
Students who test positive without a medical reason would face increasing levels of consequences, from being ineligible to participate in sports for several days to losing eligibility for the season.
Students can regain their eligibility by completing a substance abuse counseling program and consenting to random urinalysis testing.
Sosne said the test "picks up a variety of illicit drugs, and some have a longer shelf life in your body than others. ... Obviously, no system is going to be foolproof, but the idea is that we wanted to send our students a message of how important that we think it is that our athletes be substance-free."
Hester said testing will begin soon for athletes in winter sports such as basketball and wrestling.