Boys Soccer: Big Walnut cruises past Tri-Valley

September 15, 2011

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Staff Writer

A Powell company that has been doing student athlete drug testing since the late ’90s in the Olentangy School District has presented a proposal to offer the service for free while the district evaluates if it can afford to bring it back.

That business, Sport Safe Testing Service Inc., gave its presentation this week to school board members, so that the last 14 years of drug deterrence is not for naught.

“The random drug testing program for Olentangy students is based on three key principals,” said Dr. Joseph Franz of Sport Safe Testing Service Inc. “Deterrence, detection and intervention. The strongest part of these principals is the deterrence factor. The random drug testing gives students a reason to say, ‘No.’”

Although the district’s taxpayers approved a 7.9-mill levy, superintendent Wade Lucas pledged to cut about $4.4 million from this year’s budget even if the levy passed. The random student athlete drug testing was one of those casualties.

The drug testing was conducted randomly with student athletes from both the middle school and high school and was overseen by the district’s athletic directors. Since the drug testing elimination, those same athletic directors have been given oversight for the middle school athletics in the district as well, Wagner Feasel said.

“We’ll have to look to see if other staff members can help keep the program going,” Wagner Feasel said. “We will look at the cost involved and find grants out there to pay for it.”

For the 2008-09 school year, the district spent $135,000 on student athlete drug testing. This included a preseason test in the fall and random tests throughout the year. For the 2009-10 school year, the district didn’t conduct the preseason testing and spent $78,000.

“The board is in favor of reinstituting it,” said Julie Wagner Feasel, Olentangy school board president. “I think that we’re all in agreement that we believe in this program for students.

Wagner Feasel said the drug testing would start again with winter sports since parental consent is required.

“This was first implemented in 1996,” Wagner Feasel said. “I don’t want people to think this is a new thing in any way, shape or form. Since that time, numbers have shown that this program was a positive deterrent for student athletes. This fall sport season is the first time we haven’t drug tested since 1996.”

Franz, a former volunteer team physician for Olentangy High School, asked that along with offering the free testing throughout the remainder of the school year that a committee be brought together to review data from previous years and discuss funding alternatives for the program to ensure its existence.

The committee would likely consist of the superintendent and other staff members who would evaluate the process to see if it can be instituted full scale next school year, Wagner Feasel said.

Franz shared with the board that several studies were conducted at high schools in Indiana on what would happen if random drug testing was discontinued. The results showed that the use of illicit drugs and alcohol by students rose rapidly back to pre-program levels, which resulted in increased school violations and expulsions.

Although there are laws that allow all students who participate in extracurricular activities to be drug tested, as well as those who drive cars and park on campus, Wagner Feasel said this is something the district hasn’t previously considered; the committee could potentially discuss it, but it would be at a greater cost, she said.

Franz helped draft the board’s student athlete random drug testing policy, which was approved by the board in 1996. Olentangy’s was the first such policy to be enacted in Ohio. His business, Sport Safe Testing Service serves about 80 school districts across the United States with 20 of those in Ohio.