Burnet school district looks at reviving drug testing with policy changes

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

BURNET — Two years ago, Burnet Consolidated Independent School District officials chose to stop drug testing students involved in extracurricular activities because of a projected budget deficit.

Recently, district officials discussed the possibility of reviving the practice. But school board members balked at a proposed punishment that didn’t include a suspension from extracurricular activities after a first offense.

During the regular meeting of the BCISD school board Nov. 19, Superintendent Keith McBurnett presented a list of revised consequences for students who have positive drug tests.

While administrators and board members didn’t express concerns regarding the consequences for the second, third and fourth offenses, board members grappled with approving a measure that didn’t have a suspension from extracurricular activities for the first offense.

Burnet High School Principal Mark Kincaid and McBurnett told the board a committee of principals, teachers, counselors and coaches also had concerns about that very issue.

“When I presented this to the student council, they were about evenly split,” Kincaid said. “Some said, ‘If they’re using drugs, I don’t want them in my locker room.’ The others said we need to help them.”

The proposed consequence for the first offense states a student cannot park on district property and must undergo six hours of counseling and perform 20 hours of community service. The student has two weeks to start the community service portion and six weeks to finish it.

Board president Andy Feild and board member Jeff Hullum suggested a suspension of 10 school days from competing or performing in extracurricular activities, though students still would be able to practice or rehearse during that time.

“Some students might be going to school because of their (extracurricular) involvement,” McBurnett said. In the original policy, the district enforced a 30-day suspension from competing and performing after a first offense, which some officials felt might have gone too far.

In addition, waiting six weeks for another test seemed unfair to the board.

Hullum asked if it was possible to allow a student to retest after two weeks so he or she wouldn’t lose out on so many competitions or performances.

Several board members voiced concern that a lengthy first-offense punishment might be counterproductive in that students would feel cast aside.

“We don’t want somebody to feel like they’re done, that nobody’s here to help,” board member Robby Robertson said. “We want to help the kids, but we want to hold them accountable.”

In the end, the board chose to table the item until a suspension was included with the first offense.

McBurnett said he will go back to the committee, which has been working on policy revisions for two months, to present the board’s comments. He plans to bring back something to the board in December, which still would allow the district to start testing in January.

He said he also talked to different members of the community about the revisions before presenting them to the board.

In addition, $15,000 was included in the budget for drug testing. Each test costs $14 and will be administered by Southwest Consortium thanks to approval by the board.

The testing would cover all students in sixth grade and up involved in extracurricular activities.

“We’re trying to give the kid a reason to say ‘no,'” the superintendent said.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

[tabs style=”default”] [tab title=”ORIGINAL POLICY”]
  • First offense — 30-day suspension from extracurricular activities; complete drug-education program; no parking on campus
  • Second offense — 365-day suspension from extracurricular activities; complete drug-education program; no parking on campus
  • Third offense — prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities for remainder of student’s enrollment
[/tab] [tab title=”PROPOSED CHANGES”]
  • First offense — six hours of counseling; 20 hours of community service; no parking on district property
  • Second offense — 45-day suspension from extracurricular activities; 12 hours of counseling; 40 hours of community service; no parking on district property
  • Third offense — 365-day suspension from extracurricular activities; no parking on district property
  • Fourth offense — prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities for remainder of student’s enrollment
[/tab] [tab title=”ADDITIONAL CHANGES”]
  • Expanding scope of testing to include all school groups — co-curricular and extracurricular
  • Include a formal opt-in statement for parents to volunteer their children into testing program
[/tab] [/tabs]