Implementation, if approved by school board, impacts more than student-athletes
Directors of the Oconomowoc Sports Booster Club, during the group’s monthly meeting Wednesday evening at the high school, were given an overview of the random drug testing program being developed by the district’s administrative staff. Lisa Dawes, OASD Director of Student Services and Scott Raduka, the OHS athletic director, made the presentation.
Dawes said that work on a policy and practice statement is underway, but implementation, if approved by the OASD Board of Education, is not expected until the 2015-2016 school year, beginning perhaps late next summer. The School Board will probably get a chance to discuss and vote on the policy/practice at its January meeting.
Dawes and Raduka also said that the program was not designed to be punitive, but rather as a means for further reaching out to students who may need help with substance abuse.
The policy/practice, if approved, will not be directed solely at student athletes, but to any student involved in co-curricular activities. This means students who participate in clubs at Nature Hill and Silver Lake, plus those at the high school, will be part of the random testing program. Students in grades seven through 12 will be included. Also included are students requesting parking privileges at the high school, which, Dawes pointed out, means that approximately 70% of all students will be covered by the policy.
Parents of students who participate in sports and the other activities and programs must provide their consent to the testing. Absent parental consent, a student will not be eligible to participate in those activities or programs.
Recognizing that the implementation of a random testing program involves a lot of stakeholders, district staff have been meeting with small groups, such as the Booster Club, to help formulate the policy and practice. This includes students, faculty and staff, parents, and other professionals concerned with such a program.
Dawes said the student council at the high school has been involved in some of the preliminary discussions, and that some of the suggestions made by stakeholder groups have already resulted in revisions to the drafts being prepared for eventual presentation to the school board.
No large student or parents meetings have been held to date, but one is planned for Monday evening, Oct. 27, at the Oconomowoc Arts Center. starting at 6:30 p.m.
At the OSBC meeting, Sara Alsmo, an OSBC director and the coach of the high school’s bowling team, said that she has already fielded questions about the random testing program from students on her team and that she hoped the district would soon be communicating more information to both students and coaches, like herself.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there now,” Alsmo told Dawes, “some kids think the program could be implemented at any moment and there are uneasy about how it will be implemented and who will be tested.” Alsmo also said the lack of information made it difficult for coaches to respond to student concerns.
Dawes responded that the meeting on the 27th was a part of the overall communication effort, but that the district did not want to communicate broadly to students and parents until aspects of the program were more solid. She also reiterated that the Board will have the final say on the program, the policy and its implementation and that obviously it may request additional revisions, or it may delay its implementation.
When asked about the number of student-athletes who could potentially be involved in the program the veteran AD said that student participation in athletics at OHS has been on the rise over the last couple of years and that currently there are 653 (45%) students participating in athletic programs at the varsity and club levels, involving all four grade levels.
Raduka also said that Oconomowoc would not be the first local district to implement a random drug testing program. He cited Arrowhead, Pewaukee, and Muskego and said that several other districts are are considering the program.
If implemented as construed today, students to be tested would be selected via random computerized methodology and the testing would be done at the schools by a third party hired to do the tests. Results would be available within 24 hours. Those results would then be communicated to the student and his/her parents via several avenues. If a test is positive, Dawes said, school staff would work with the student and parents to identify resources to help address the problem.
The test results would not be shared with law enforcement officials. When pressed on this, Raduka said that if a student is in possession of illegal drugs he or she would be handled according to existing district policy, which could result in a suspension or other action.
Funding for the program is coming from the district’s AODA budget, grants, or the Jennifer Bukosky Fund.
Visit the Oconomowoc Sports Booster Club website for more on the nonprofit organization, including membership information.