MINSTER – Approximately 90 people came away from a public meeting at Minster Elementary School Thursday night with some answers to their concerns over the new drug testing program recently approved by the district’s board of education.
The board last month had approved contracting with Grand Lake Biomedical from Perrysburg, Ohio, to do random drug testing on students in the next school year. The public meeting was set up when some residents expressed concern on the scope of the testing and the consequences of having drugs detected in a student.
Superintendent Brenda Boeke explained the drug testing program does not affect academic standing in the school, only those students who are participating in extracurricular activities from sports to music to school clubs. Since approximately 98% of students are involved in extracurriculars, the testing covers almost the entire student body.
She explained the testing cannot affect academic status because the Supreme Court has ruled an education was a fourth amendment right. However, extracurricular activities and their involvement by students can be limited with a positive drug test or any violation of school policy.
The meeting was divided into two segments, with the first half open to those who wanted answers to questions about the procedure to collect urine samples and what data is extracted during the laboratory tests. The second half of the meeting allowed the school administrators to talk about their rationale for adopting the program.
In the first half, Grand Lake Biomedical founder Kyle Prueter spent an hour answering many questions about the collection of samples, how they are tested, and where the data from the tests go.
Some wanted to know how often testing is done and how students are selected. Prueter said they use a computer program that randomly selects around 30 students to come to the school office and use the office’s single restroom to collect a sample. He said they send the sample to a laboratory and report back to the school with results. Some in the audience said the random testing of the 400 students in the high school would not create a complete picture of drug use or if it even exists at all.
A few questioned what was done with the DNA in the samples. One man expressed privacy concerns, quoting reports of genetic testing sites such as DNA and Me sharing information to law enforcement to track down close relatives of criminals. Prueter said there was little to no DNA in the samples and it was not his company’s policy to do DNA testing, but the question was asked several times.
Others wanted to know if a pregnancy test was part of the sampling with one man saying “It’s nobody’s business if a daughter is pregnant.” Prueter assured him pregnancy tests were not part of the sampling.
Others debated the efficiency of the tests for a variety of reasons. One woman claimed she found information on the internet that marijuana and other drugs don’t stay in a system long enough to be detected after a few days.
In response to a question to the idea that students might try to cheat the test by submitting someone else’s sample, Prueter pointed out that to avoid failing a random test, a student would have to collect a sample every morning, just in case he is selected for random sampling, and strap it to his body. Prueter said, considering that they test the sample as soon as the student presents it, “We would probably say you aren’t on drugs, but you are dead, because the temperature of the sample is 78 degrees.”
Some people questioned what substances were being tested for, with one woman saying “If you start testing for alcohol, this whole community will blow up.” At this point the school contract does not call for alcohol testing, he said.
The drug testing uses urine samples to test for a variety of drugs. According to an information sheet handed out by the school at the beginning of the meeting, “drugs which may be tested for include LSD, marijuana, amphetamines, methadone, anabolic steroids, methaqualone, barbiturates, nicotine, benzodiazepines, opiates, cocaine, propoxyphene, or any substance which an individual may not sell, give, exchange, offer to sell, possess, use, distribute, or purchase under state or federal law.”
As to what happens if a drug being detected, Boeke said the program has a policy where the first time a drug is detected, the parents are contacted and the student is still in his or her activities. Counseling would be offered, with connections to various local mental health organizations. However, a second or third violation could result in the student being taken off the extracurricular activity.
The new policy requires that the parents of all students involved in extracurricular activities, whether it be sports, band, and board approved clubs would have to sign an agreement to the random drug testing policy. If the parents refuse, the student would not be allowed to participate in those activities. Parents can also opt into the program, if they want their children not involved in student activities to be tested.
Several people in the group were concerned their children would be kicked off their extracurricular activities for testing positive, theorizing it might be accidental exposure, or just a “one time thing.”
To address that issue, Austin Kaylor, Minster junior senior high principal, Boeke, and high school football coach Byron Albers all spoke to how drug use is already in the community and is rising every day.
Kaylor said in his three years as a principal, he is hearing more and more talk from students about drug use, not just use by students, but of students having to live with drug abuse in their own homes.
When some audience members said there was no data nor evidence supporting the idea of drugs in schools, Kaylor pointed out they had drug-detecting dogs in the school buildings two or three times a year, and the dogs always detected traces of drugs in lockers and student cars.
In response to these concerns, he said he initiated the conversation to look into drug testing with the school’s parental advisory board in January 2020. He said they had approved researching what could be done to detect drugs in the student body.
Albers agreed, saying in the last five years, he is hearing more and more talk than ever before among the students about use of drugs and weed. “It is definitely on the incline.”
Boeke also said Minster Police Chief David Friend told her he wanted the community to know that fentanyl was in the area and being laced into other drugs. He could not attend that meeting.
Several high school students attended the meeting, some at times debating the efficiency of the testing. However, one young high school girl spoke of her knowledge of drug use among those in her social circle and of her fears for her fellow students. “I know people who want help, but are afraid to ask for help. I don’t want them to die.”
Toward the end of the meeting, questions on funding the program were also asked, along with some asking to stop the drug testing until a community vote for or against the policy could be done. Others asked questions about expanding programs to fight drug abuse.
Boeke said the drug testing program cost the district $2,500 per school year, with money being drawn from the state’s budgeted money for student wellness. Boeke said the total yearly budget for is $147,000 due to the new school funding formula.
As to other better programs than what they had selected, Boeke said “if you know of better ones, please bring them to me. We’ll look into it.” She emphasized that they are constantly working with students to know the danger of drugs.
Finally, the superintendent agreed to bring to the board of education’s June 20 meeting the ideas of a vote on drug testing and other ideas to raise awareness of the danger of drug abuse.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.