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After 3 years, student drug testing is back at Beaufort Co. SC schools. What drug they added and mor


October 9, 2023 at 2:18 PM

After a three-year hiatus due to COVID student drug testing is back in Beaufort County high schools this year and expanded from years past to sometimes include fentanyl. The district also switched from their previous private testing vendor to Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

The drug test program is meant to help students and not be punitive, according to district spokesperson Candace Bruder. A positive test won’t lead to school suspension and the district won’t tell law enforcement. However, students could be suspended from extracurricular activities unless they get drug counseling at their guardians own expense. Some critics including school board member Ingrid Boatright say it’s ineffective, a violation of privacy and shouldn’t be in schools.

“I think it potentially deters people who would benefit from participating in extracurriculars where they might find a mentorship relationship or a more healthy lifestyle,” Boatright said. “It deters them from participating.”

Throughout this school year, 300 high school students will be drug tested each month, for a total of 2,700 tests a year. It makes up at least 15% of the eligible testing population: those who participate in athletics, other extracurricular activities or have campus parking permits. Previously, the district tested at least 10% of eligible students.

Random drug testing started in Beaufort County schools in 2015 under

Superintendent Jeff Moss and received mixed reactions from community members. In a 2015 Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette survey of about 620 people, 55 percent said they opposed the district’s plan. About 41 percent were in favor.

If a guardian opts out by not signing the consent form or withdrawing a signed form, the student cannot participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities or park at school.

What drugs are students tested for?

A school can request Fentanyl testing if they deem it necessary, according to Director of District Athletics Carlos Cave.

Otherwise, selected students will take a panel urine test which includes:

amphetamines barbiturates benzodiazepines cocaine ecstasy marijuana methamphetamines methadone opiates

PCP propoxyphene

Who is doing the tests and what does it cost?

Prior to this year, the district contracted Absolute Assurance Drug Testing, LLC for the testing. Their most recent contract ended July, 31 2020. Drug testing didn’t resume last year because they had to find a different vendor, according to Cave.

“We did not have a vendor contracted during the COVID and then home window,” Cave said. “The policy never changed and the funding source was always there, and we just had to secure a new vendor, which we have now.”

It costs $50 per panel test with an additional $10 to test for fentanyl if needed. The district will pay the hospital $125 per hour to provide the tests. At 2,700 tests a year and at least $50 per test, the district will spend $135,000 on tests alone.

How does the drug test process work?

Beaufort Memorial Hospital, as part of their service agreement with the district, randomly selects students from the list the district provides the day of, and those students will be pulled from class to give their urine samples. It’s a surprise the day of and parents, guardians and students aren’t notified beforehand.

The random testing began in September and will happen once a month. Cave estimates it takes the students between 20 and 50 minutes to complete testing, depending on how readily they can give their sample.

“It’s not a benign process to march these kids down and observe them pee into a cup,” Boatright said. “I don’t think it sends a good message. Even if they pass.”

After testing, students are given a letter to take home to their parent or guardian saying they were randomly selected.

What happens if a student tests positive?

The district won’t suspend students who test positive from school or notify law enforcement.

On a first positive test:

Student will be banned from extracurricular activities and parking on campus for 365 days

These consequences will be waived if they receive an assessment by a licensed substance-abuse professional and complete at least one treatment session within 10 days of the positive test.

The student would then have to pass another drug test within 30 to 90 days after the first failed test.

The process is the same for a second test with the addition of one requirement:

A student must test “negative” on a retest prior to regaining eligibility In the case of a third positive test:

A student would be ineligible for extracurricular activities and parking for 365 days

After the 365 days, they must complete a substance-abuse program and pass another drug test to be eligible

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the district randomly selects the students, but BMH randomly selects the students from a list the district provides.

Source: The Island Packet

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