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Schuylkill County News

Blue Mountain Debating Random Drug Test Policy Reinstatement

School hasn’t enforced the policy since returning from COVID protocols.

Prior to 2020, Blue Mountain School District mandated all students who joined a co- or extra-curricular activity to allow for random drug testing.

But since schooling returned to normal following the response to COVID, the school hasn’t actually conducted any of those random drug tests.

Last week, Superintendent David Helsel asked school board members if Blue Mountain should go back to conducting random drug tests on students in these programs – and paying for those tests – or just abandon the policy altogether.

If the district did decide to start enforcing this policy again, Helsel said a lot of inconsistencies with it needed to be ironed out first.

Students that participate are chosen at random for drug testing, per the letter of this policy. If they fail a drug test, they’re suspended 45 school days from the co- or extra-curricular activities in which they participate.

One inconsistency Helsel noted is that a student caught with a THC (marijuana) vape is not subject to the suspension.

If the school board voted to start enforcing this policy again, Helsel said, “It’s also going to be contention with the number of people out there with medical marijuana prescriptions.”

Helsel said he spoke with some board members prior to last week’s meeting and they apparently expressed apprehension with enforcing this policy once again, believing the threat of a 45-day suspension from those activities is not an effective deterrent.

The concern among some board members is that if you suspend a student who may be addicted to a drug or nearing an addiction problem, you’re taking them away from a positive activity.

“I think it’s time for the board to discuss what their opinions are and make a decision,” Helsel said. “I just want to either tweak this policy or get rid of it.”

One board member who seems opposed to the idea of a 45-day suspension is Roy Heim.

Heim said, “I’m absolutely 100 percent against 45 days.”

He added that keeping students away from those co- and extra-curricular activities would likely put them in a situation where they’re more likely to do the drugs that got them popped on the test.

“The best environment they have is right here at this school,” Heim said.

He added that he’s made his fair share of mistakes growing up and if he had been “crucified like that,” he wouldn’t know where he’d be today.

Several board members also believe that the 45-day suspension may be a bit harsh but also suggested that it’s not uncommon for people to get screened for drug use when applying for jobs so perhaps there’s nothing wrong with reinforcing the school’s program again.

“I understand what Roy is saying and I agree, we all make mistakes,” board member Rebecca Miller said. “But at the same time, you can’t get a job without a drug test. You can’t do anything without that.

“We have issues with this,” Miller added, noting a drug and alcohol problem at Blue Mountain. “I just think maybe we need to revisit this.”

This topic could come up in discussion once again when the Blue Mountain school board meets on June 27.

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