The Rock Hill school district is considering a policy that would call for random drug testing among student-athletes.
Bill Warren, athletic director at Rock Hill High School, proposed a pilot drug testing program to the Rock Hill school board during a work session Monday. An informational meeting with parents, students and community members was held Oct. 17.
Warren talked with the school board about why the program is needed, but did not ask board members to take action.
Random drug testing would cost the district, which would pay for the tests, about $3,000 for the first year, or $15 to $20 per test, Warren said.
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If approved by the school board, drug tests would begin with winter sports in 2017, which include boys and girls basketball and wrestling.
Warren said there have been parent complaints about drugs in school sports and student arrests. He said this is the third attempt at implementing a drug test program in Rock Hill schools.
The athletic director said the two most commonly used drugs are marijuana and alcohol, closely followed by pills found in the home.
“The use of pills is quickly catching up to those two,” Warren said. “It’s becoming a major problem in a lot of your schools. A lot of us are shocked at the different ways kids are hiding drugs now and the way they are using drugs right under our noses.”
Under the proposal, students who test positive for drug use would be suspended from sports temporarily, but also provided counseling, Warren said.
“We don’t want to just kick the student out of athletics; we want to help the student,” he said.
However, the length of a student suspension and other details of the drug testing are not yet determined, Warren said. The district’s three high school athletic directors are gathering feedback.
School board chairman Jim Vining said he is concerned a drug test program would discourage participation in school sports.
“I can think of some players that have come through our district, with their backgrounds, that may never had played their first play if they knew they could get tested,” he said. “Participation is down for a lot of reasons, and you are just giving them one more item in there.”
However, board member Helena Miller said the program could potentially save students.
“It goes both ways,” she said. “We don’t need kids on drugs on our football teams.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to test students participating in extracurricular activities because it is a safety concern, Warren said.
“Drugs affect a student-athlete’s perception and reaction time,” Warren said. “We’re trying to protect the ones that aren’t on drugs.”
The program would help identify students using drugs and provide counseling, Warren said. He said drugs can increase the risk for sudden cardiac arrest for athletes.
“A lot of parents don’t know their child is using drugs,” he said. “We are searching out people that need help the most.”
Testing programs are typically used as a deterrent from drug use, said Brian Butts, facilities manager for Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill. Keystone runs a random drug test program in the Clover school district.
“I think it’s pretty effective,” Butts said. “If you want to play a sport, you’ve got to be drug-free. It’s a safety issue and that’s why school districts are testing.”
Negative results are a positive reinforcement for parents, Warren said.
“It immediately spurs a communication about drugs between the parent and child,” he said. “In today’s society as a teenager, peer pressure is huge.”
South Pointe High School senior Bo Taylor told board members he knows the pressures of being a high school athlete. Taylor plays football at his school and plans to play at Coastal Carolina University after graduation.
“I know what it takes to get to the next level and drugs definitely aren’t that,” he said. “I’m a big believer in drug testing. Not only does it give you an ultimatum, it teaches you responsibility.”
Teen drug use facts
- 68 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol, with 37.4 percent drinking in the last month
- 35.1 percent of seniors have smoked marijuana in the past year and 81 percent of seniors said it is easy to get the drug
- High schoolers have also used include painkillers, hallucinogens, cough medicine and cocaine
Information compiled from Teen Rehab Center, an online resource through a behavioral health care management organization.