Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

May 15, 2014

Changes proposed to drug testing, dress code policies

CROSSVILLE — The policy committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education is looking at changes to its extracurricular drug-testing policy as the program enters its third year.

The changes would eliminate elementary school students from the random drug testing program.

"All drug testing of grades 7-8 have been negative to date," wrote Tammy Stewart, coordinated school health supervisor for the school system.

There have been 186 students in seventh and eighth grades tested for drug use at a cost of $4,200. The age of the students makes it an uncomfortable and time-consuming process, Stewart noted, especially for the girls who have never given a urine sample before and are embarrassed by the screening process. Some have cried due to the emotional stress of the random drug testing process.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, "If we're about doing what's best for the kids, this doesn't meet that. I don't think it's worth the trauma it's causing."

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, said principals had asked to include those younger students in the extracurricular drug testing screening.

Rebecca Wood, assistant director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, said, "It's taking so much time to complete. The process is not what they thought it would be."

Janeway and Stone agreed to recommend the policy change.

Another change is no longer requiring consent signatures, signed before the start of the school year and participation in extracurricular activities, to be witnessed by school personnel. Complying with the witnessing requirements was logistically impossible, Stewart wrote.

The policy provides an opportunity for students to enter a drug and alcohol treatment program should they test positive on a first offense. The policy was amended to require parents or the student to facilitate the transfer of documentation of participation in and completion of such a program to the school.

There was a question if students testing positive on first offense would be required to sit out of extracurricular participation while enrolled in a drug and alcohol intervention program. Janeway recalled conversations on that point when the policy was developed, noting that the program was designed as an intervention and deterrent and the desire to get students help on a first offense of failing a random drug test. Removing students from participation while in the optional treatment program could also lead to identification of students testing positive.

"It pulls you out and it singles you out," Janeway said. "The first offense was back to it's not a gotcha. 'It's confidential. This is between us. We're here to support you. Nobody knows. This is between me and you and your parents.' Even on a first offense, it's not about embarrassing the kid."

Director of Schools Donald Andrews questioned the liability the school system could be exposed to if a student undergoing alcohol and drug treatment were allowed to play sports and was either injured or injured another player.

"We don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, but it has to go back to the coach because there may be other problems," Andrews said. He also noted there are also team rules on many athletic teams.

Rebecca Wood, assistant director of curriculum, instruction and accountability, said that could mean a student would have to miss the majority of a sports season, such as football, because the treatment programs are about six weeks in length.

Janeway said that could remove the incentive to seek help. Stone said sitting out extracurricular activities for six weeks was a more favorable option than being excluded for a year from all extracurricular events.

The matter was tabled as the third member of the committee, Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, was not in attendance at the meeting and Janeway and Stone were unable to come to a consensus.

Under the dress code, administrators asked for several changes that would help the policy stay in line with current fashions.

The policy committee agreed with proposals to eliminate wording prohibiting clothing with holes, ragged edges or with patches of different colors or fabric and to replace with a prohibition on clothing with holes above the knees. The policy committee removed a prohibition against "extreme" nail color.

Under clothing rules, leggings will be allowed to be worn with shirts, skirts and dresses, provided the student's buttocks are covered. Leggings do not include tights or pantyhose or other fabrics that expose the skin. Cargo pants, which are permitted, were removed from the policy because it was unnecessary to state that style is a permitted style.

There was discussion of body piercing jewelry, which is popular among students. Currently, no body piercing jewelry, including clear spacers, may be worn except for earrings in the ear for boys and girls. This is an issue, said Kelly Smith, Stone Memorial High School assistant principal.

"We fight this daily," she explained.

Administrators had requested spacers be allowed or small clear studs, which are less noticeable and would keep the piercing from growing up, which is why many students are reluctant to remove piercings during school.

"We depend on teachers to be consistent," said Scott Maddox, principal at SMHS.

While not an endorsement of facial piercings, Stone recommended striking "including spacers" from the current policy.

Discussion of homemade snacks and student food allergies was tabled until the next meeting of the committee.

Policy changes require two successful readings by the full Cumberland County Board of Education before taking effect.


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