The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Our Readers Speak

June 22, 2013

Our Readers Speak - Saturday, June 22, 2013

Support policy for student drug testing

In my day, the biggest problems in school were kids chewing gum, dogs eating their homework and minor skirmishes at recess. Not any more. Today, drugs are a serious problem in southern West Virginia that impacts our young people, their education, their health and their future.

Because this is an important issue, there’s been a lot of talk about the problem. What there hasn’t been is agreement about what should be done to address it. As a parent, health care provider, employer and property owner who willingly pays taxes to fund public education in Raleigh County, I want to express my support for D.2.11 — the proposed policy to drug test students.

All of us know the effect of seeing a police car on us while we’re driving. We check our speed, put down our phones or put on our seat belts, right? We’re not bad drivers or bad people, but the possibility of getting pulled over improves our behavior. And, just like seeing the police car, drug testing harnesses the power of potential consequences — making it a meaningful method of prevention.

Drug testing is already an established and effective employment practice. Although such screening is an imperfect solution, it’s the best tool that employers currently have to protect themselves from the liability associated with impaired individuals who pose a safety risk to themselves, other employees and customers. Drug use is an issue of imminent and long-term safety.

Safety is also the primary issue with students who may be under the influence of a substance and impaired in some capacity while operating a vehicle or participating in athletic events. As parents and community members, we must do all we can to ensure that we are providing a safe environment for students and staff while we are striving to graduate employable young adults.

Too often employers are unable to find suitable candidates for available jobs in Raleigh County. It’s not that we have an employment problem in Raleigh County; we have an employability problem. Even though there are available positions, there are not enough qualified applicants who meet the minimum standards for employment. And, more often than not, this minimum standard includes passing a drug screen.

If D.2.11 were in place, we would be helping students bring their best selves to school, empowering them to resist peer pressure and preparing them for the day that they will be job applicants.

But testing is not enough so the proposed policy includes the provision for a student substance abuse prevention specialist. The person who holds this position will not only be responsible for the implementation of the testing, but will also be in charge of developing educational and prevention efforts within our schools.

Because the student substance abuse prevention specialist position creates in-house support for students, teachers and staff, everyone’s focus can more consistently be on learning and on preparing for the future. This is critical support that we currently do not have — and will not have — without the implementation of D.2.11.

No single policy, law or action by the hard-working Board of Education or anyone else will fix our drug problem. So what can you do to help? To review the policy, go to the Raleigh County Schools website under News (toward the bottom of the page) and click on Revised Policy D.2.11. To show your support of D.2.11 or share your comments, e-mail the superintendent’s office at cwood@access.k12.wv.us.

There’s a lot at stake here. Please take moment now to make a difference and support our kids — their safety, their education, their health, and their future.

Mick Bates

Beckley

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