CEDARVILLE — The way Cedar Cliff Local Schools Superintendent Chad Mason sees it – “we are right dab in the middle of one of the biggest drug epidemics in the history of this country.”
And, he said, anyone thinking that the students in the small communities within his school district are somehow exempt would be pretty naïve.
The drugs are everywhere, he said, and the disease off addiction is striking down people of all ages from all walks of life. So what can school officials do?
“Drug testing,” Mason said. “We are asking ourselves if having drug testing for students in extracurricular activities and sports would serve as a deterrent – wondering if maybe kids wouldn’t use drugs if they know they have to pass a drug test to play sports or be involved in an extracurricular program.”
All of this came as a result of recent discussions school officials had with some of the district’s graduates.
“Our graduates are giving feedback,” he said. “Kids are doing things on the weekend they shouldn’t be doing… We want to stop them before they get started.
“We want kids to have a reason to say no if they’re offered drugs.”
Although school officials have been exploring this option for 18 months, Mason emphasized that it is still very preliminary. School officials will be looking for feedback from the community soon.
“We want to know how the community feels about it,” he said. “Will they support it? Also, if we go down this road we want to make sure we have the resources to get them help if they need it – or send them in the right direction for someone who does.
Mason estimated more than 80 percent of the district’s 210 students are involved in some sort of sport or extracurricular.
“We are still in the planning phase of this,” Mason said. “No decision will be made until we have a community meeting that would take place later in the spring.”
Mason said policies like this can be controversial if there isn’t enough information made available to the public.
“I want to make sure we have a big meeting where folks can come and give their input,” Mason said. “This is an important decision for us and it’s one that’s not going to be made quickly.”
Drugs in today’s society hit home, Mason said.
“We are definitely in a very different time,” he said. “We don’t want to pretend this is not affecting this area.
“We are not naive to think we are immune to it and think we don’t have these problems in our communities. All of our districts deal with students who have issues.”
Mason said half the schools in their conference have drug testing. It’s administered and conducted by third-party experts who would be contracted.
“Our administration and secretaries and teachers are not going to be pulling kids aside and testing them,” he said. “They are the experts and they would alert us if there was an issue (including tobacco and performance enhancers).
The bottom line of this whole thing, Mason said: “We really just want to keep kids off drugs.”
“We want kids to say ‘no, I’m not going to do that because I want to play sports …’”
Also, Mason wants a confidential referral process where students with issues –students who want help—can reach out to school officials for help without them being punished.”
Brian Evans is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.