When Granville High School students return to class in August, additional tests will await them — and not the multiple-choice kind.
A new drug-testing policy approved late last month by the Granville school board will go into effect with the new school year. Under the policy, high school students in most extracurricular activities — sports, drama productions, student council and others — will be subject to random drug tests.
The policy is the result of two years of discussions and research into drug testing in the district, said Superintendent Jeff Brown, adding that the policy is broader than simply drug testing.
The district also is implementing a new drug-abuse educational program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade with “heavy parent involvement,” as well as implementing programs aimed at reducing stress and anxiety, which Brown said can be a root cause of substance use.
District officials aren’t going into specifics about what types of drugs students will be tested for, but did say it will include both drugs and alcohol.
The results of a student’s first random drug test will be delivered only to the student’s parents or guardians, not school officials. If a student tests positive for substance use, the student and parents can ask the district for help finding counseling options without penalty to the student.
Once a student tests positive, he or she will be placed in a random testing selection process for at least two additional tests. If a student tests positive in a follow-up test, he or she will be denied participation in 50 percent of the extracurricular season or event, or 25 percent if the student completes a drug/alcohol treatment program.
A third positive test results in denied participation for one full extracurricular activity season, or 50 percent of the season if a student completes the drug/alcohol treatment program.
Parents and guardians have the ability to opt their students out of the program. They also can opt their students into the program even if they don’t participate in extracurriculars.
To pay for the program — the drug testing, as well as the educational components across grades — the high school will charge student drivers a $40 parking fee for the school year.
“We wanted to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars and this could be a funding mechanism we could apply to offset the cost,” Brown said.
Brown wouldn’t say how much it will cost to drug test students, but said it depends on which drugs are tested for, how frequently the district tests and how many students it tests.
District officials have discussed ranges for each of those categories, Brown said, but added, “We’re not necessarily communicating those broadly.”
As Granville developed its policy, officials reached out to other nearby school districts, including Licking Valley and Heath, that already have drug testing programs in place.
It’s difficult to say how effective Heath’s drug testing policy has been in deterring student substance use, said Superintendent Trevor Thomas. The district has been drug testing for at least 10 years, he said.
“Kids know that we test, and so it does affect their behavior a little bit,” he said. “How much, I don’t know.”
The district hopes that by having the policy in place, it gives students an excuse to say no to drugs or alcohol when they find themselves facing peer pressure, Thomas said.
“We always hope that’s the case, that we give an excuse for those kids who are on the fence,” Thomas said. “They can always say, ‘I can’t; I (could) get tested any time.’”
There were parents and students who spoke out against Granville’s policy at board meetings. Some said the policy infringes on students’ and parents’ rights and privacy, that it will drive students away from extracurriculars and that it’s too punitive.
“The board kind of knew going into this conversation that it would be somewhat polarizing,” Brown said. “The feedback they’ve received aligns with that. People have very strong feelings on both sides of this conversation.”
Vince Ghiloni, who served as Granville’s head baseball coach for nine years, sat on the committee initially assembled by the district two years ago to explore drug testing. He was one of the first people in the district to push for such a policy.
“I’ll admit, the research (on drug testing) is very inconclusive, both ways,” Ghiloni said. “For me, it’s simply what the kids told me.”
He said he’s had numerous conversations with students after they graduated about the issue.
“Would it have helped, would it deter them from doing it?” he said. “The answer was almost emphatically yes.”
Granville’s policy will be in effect for three full academic years before it expires.