R-2 directors adopt changes to high school handbook designed to promote student safety

By: 
Roxanne Murphy

Gasconade County R-2 board members voted Monday night to expand the definition in the Owensville High School (OHS) student handbook of students who may be randomly pulled for drug testing to include, “dances, prom and parking on campus,” in addition to extracurricular activities.

According to the handbook for high school students, “In addition to the random testing process described below, the district may conduct drug testing of all covered activity participants at the beginning of the school year and/or at the beginning of any covered activity, including attendance at dances and prom.”

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said adding the student parking privilege, school dances and prom to extra curricular activities expands the available pool of students they are allowed to drug test.

“The program started about 10 years ago,” Garner said. “By having the policy doesn’t mean having every student tested or any student tested. It just means the district has the opportunity.”

Athletic Director Dale Long and OHS teacher Lucas Gehlert presented the changes to the board of education on behalf of the review committee.

Changes made to the drug testing policy start on page 52 of the Student Handbook with extra-curricular activities also including parking privileges. The former wording said “participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right or entitlement,” then added parking on school property is a privilege, not a right or entitlement.”

Wording that drug testing would only be for students that participate in extracurricular activities has been removed.

In an explanation of drug testing, the handbooks states, “Our district believes that drug usage is inconsistent with the guidelines for student participation in extracurricular activities,” and the board approved the change to add “parking on campus.”

The handbook also outlines that consent to the drug testing must be given by “a parent/legal guardian as well as the student, not just for students under 18 years old.”

Disciplinary action for students who test positive is located on page 54 of the handbook. “A student who tests positive for a test drug shall be suspended from participating in all extracurricular activities for 30 calendar days from the date the district learns of the positive test result,” it states.

 New to that section is, “and denied parking privileges,” during the 30 day period.

“They are only suspended from activities,” Garner said. “Not high school or the district.”

If a student is tested and suspended from activities, there is no appeals process, according to page 56 “Appeals” of the OHS handbook.

The new rule adds parking on school campus to “because participation in activities is a privilege and not a legal entitlement, there is no right to a hearing to challenge a suspension or ban under this policy.”

Garner said these policies are meant to deter students.

“This provides students with another opportunity to say no to drugs,” Garner explained. “They think ‘I am an athlete’ or ‘I park on campus’ or ‘I want to do this event.’”

Garner was out of the district this week and could not provide The Republican with any reports from previous testing over the past 10 years. Long’s office, as activities director, is in charge of the testing and his secretary takes care of the day-to-day process.

Carrie Pruitt Seeker is secretary to the athletic director and handles the order forms for the random checks. She helped explain the process.

“We did two (lists) the second semester and the last one was in March,” Pruitt Seeker said.

She advised that this is her first semester in the position and was informed that the district would normally do more.

“Every couple of weeks I send off a list of student IDs,” she said.

A private company in California returns the list with a percentage of student IDs off the original list. It usually results in 10 to 20 student IDs of which the top 10 student numbers are typed in to see if a student is present that day. The top 10 or more present are tested.

“It is under $10 a person tested,” Pruitt Seeker said. “We don’t know who the students are, even when the numbers are returned.”

If students are available, they are contacted during school and asked for a sample. The sample is sent out and results are received within 48 hours via email.

“Since I have been here, everyone has passed,” Pruitt Seeker said.

Garner said the board’s goal is ultimately to make students safer as he explained the drug testing policy that has been in place since 2008.

“It’s a random draw currently for students who participate in extracurricular activities,” Garner said. “We may have a time when we do a random sample one month, again the next month, then none for a couple of months. It’s unpredictable, so it’s random.”

Garner said there has been no push back from parents or students subjected to the random drug sampling so far. He added Breathalyzer tests could also be done at prom.

“It could happen at any dance, including prom,” Garner said. “We have not instituted this yet,but the way others have done it, it would be everyone who is entering.”

Additional changes to the handbook include:

• Page 2: GPA points may be based off of summer school credits in addition to regular school year credits. 

• Page 3: Act scholarships, successfully complete an ACT prep course instead of class.

• Page 3: Academic attendance policy, New: In order to participate in extra curricular or co-curricular activities including practice, students must be in attendance all day unless prior approval is given by the administration. Approved absences include, but are not limited to, scheduled medical appointments, funerals or other approved by administration.

• Page 4: Disciplinary action updated: Students assigned to Out of School Suspension (OSS) for one to 10 days may receive up to 50 percent on all assignments during the suspension period. IN order for a student to receive credit for OSS work, they must attend alternative school for half of the suspension days.

• Page 5: Academic Review/Alternative School updated: First semester time must be completed by Feb. 1 instead of May 1.

• Page 6: Cafeteria and vending regulations  new: Outside drinks are not permitted, and,

• Students are now allowed to charge up to $15 instead of $5 to their lunch account for unpaid meals.

• Page 6: Prom guest updates: Prom guests must not be older than 20 instead of 22 years of age (so they are not of legal drinking age.)

 • Page 11: Automobile misuse updates to include not parking in assigned spot.

• Page 23: Dress code elimination: leggings/tights/yoga pants will be permitted.

• Page 25: Grade classification new: Students will attend student activities based on their grade classification.

• Page 26: Grade cards update: Grades are cumulative for the semester. Quarter grades are not given, and, 

• All students are required to participate and/or pass the following assessments during high school, new: Citizenship test, English II ECO, Biology EOC, Algebra I EOC, Government EOC, U.S. Constitution test, Sate Constitution test, and CPR.

• Page 27: Homecoming, elimination: King and Queen eligibility disqualifications.

• Page 30: Rolla Technical School, new: All RTI students shall sign in at the office before boarding the bus.

• Page 33: Semester exams, update: Students who are qualified to be exempt from a final and decided to take the exam may choose to accept the grade or not.

• Page 43: College NCAA Requirements, update: must register with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Students may register online.

• Extra curricular eligibility requirements, elimination: have entered school within the first 11 days of the current semester.

• Update: Have attended seventh and eighth grade, including home school status.

• Update: All participating students must be enrolled in two credit hours (four classes) per semester.

• New: In order for students to participate in contests, matches or games, they must have no outstanding fines or fees.

• Page 46: Extracurricular code of conduct, update: Students must be in attendance the entire day to participate in extracurricular activities unless approved by the administration building.

•Page 50: Consequences for infractions of the code of conduct, update: First offense tobacco, 20 percent time out of the season. Alcohol drug, vandalism, theft are 50 percent of the season. Felony Conviction — one year.

• Update, Second Offense: Tobacco, 50 percent of the season. Alcohol, drugs, vandalism, theft or felony conviction — one year.

• Update, Third Offense: Tobacco — one year.

After some discussion and questioning the members of the review committee, the board passed the changes with a 6-0 vote. Joyce Lowes was absent.

Garner noted that certified staff at the school are not required to submit to random drug testing. Only bus drivers are required to be drug-tested. A teacher who also drives a bus would be required to submit to random drug testing.

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