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Drug-testing student athletes gets initial OK, then will be reviewed

Key West High School is among the three main high schools in the Florida Keys where the principal and athletic director is asking for the return of student drug testing.
Key West High School is among the three main high schools in the Florida Keys where the principal and athletic director is asking for the return of student drug testing. Keynoter

Monroe County schools will likely return to drug testing athletes, and for the first time, students who take part in other extracurricular activities — for one year before returning to the School Board to review results.

“We’re going to collect data and report back to the board,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of assessment and accountability for the School District.

Tuesday in Marathon, the five-member board approved the first reading of the proposal, which this time expands beyond just athletes but doesn’t specify exactly which activities are included. If it survives a second reading, it will next appear for a vote and become policy. The board meets next on May 9 in Key West at 241 Trumbo Road starting at 3 p.m.

Superintendent Mark Porter ended high school athlete drug testing in 2014, citing privacy concerns, after a parent complained her teenage daughter was pulled from class and taken to a drug-court facility without parental consent.

All three principals at the public high schools in Key West, Marathon and Tavernier (Coral Shores), plus the athletic directors, want the program back, saying it is not about punishment but prevention and rehabilitation if a student tests positive for marijuana, cocaine, meth, opiates or other illegal drugs.

No longer will students be taken off campus for the urine test, and all names would be kept confidential and on campus. Students and their families could order an independent drug test, which costs about $35.

Board members had specific concerns about the policy, like a measure that would ban a dirty tester from sports practices.

“The whole point is to keep even one kid from doing drugs,” said board member Mindy Conn of Sugarloaf Key. “I would feel better if we left practices to the coaches’ discretion. In some cases, having the student not come to practice means it’s more likely they’ll be looking for other things to do.”

So-called “shy bladder” syndrome, in which someone can’t physically release urine on demand, is also addressed by the policy. But Conn said it is a real thing and questioned how long a student may be kept out of the classroom waiting to take the urine test.

Collier County’s drug-testing policy has three pages on shy bladder.

“It makes me uncomfortable we have this three-hour window; that’s a lot of missed class time,” Conn said. “Nor do I want to punish somebody who is not trying to avoid the test but literally has a shy bladder.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen

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