D-12 board urges parents to enroll teens in drug testing program

CAROL MCGRAW Updated: October 25, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: October 25, 2010

Disappointed in the lack of enrollment in its voluntary drug testing program, the Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 board said Monday it will make a concerted push to get more parents to sign up their children for the program that is to begin this fall.

So far only about 35 have agreed to participate in the voluntary pilot program at the high school; to make the random testing viable the district’s goal is at least 100.

The district particularly wants to reach parents of athletes and will give presentations at events, such as the upcoming winter sports open house.

“We need to find out pretty quickly if this program will go forward,” said board member Jack Wiepking.

He said he would like to see 100 percent participation by students in some athletic programs.

“We want those afraid to sign up to know that this is a health issue,” he said. “We don’t want kids who could be on drugs or alcohol to be out there on the ice or in the pool.”

He spoke recently at a booster club meeting. “There was applause, there was a lot of support there,” he said.

Superintendent Walt Cooper said in a survey given last spring most of those who participated said they would sign their kids up.

Wiepking noted that many parents have asked him why it is voluntary instead of mandatory.

“I think they want it to be mandatory so that they don’t have to take the heat from their kids,” he said. “Instead, it would be the district’s ‘fault’ that their kids had to be tested. But I really want the parents to have that conversation wtih their kids.”

Wiepking predicted that if they take more time to talk to parents and students, the momentum will be there. “I predict that we’ll get it.”

Senior Isabel Halle, a student council representative, said before the meeting that she likes the idea of the program because it gives students “a good excuse to say no to their peers.”

She said that her parents had not signed up. “I think they feel that if they want, they can do a test on their own.”

Administrators and board members held several information meetings about the pilot program since school started, but few parents signed on. Some parents expressed concern that the results of such tests might make their way into student records, even though the information was to be confidential.

Others felt it will be a safeguard.

The district spent a year discussing drug testing programs and other efforts to combat underage drug and alcohol use, and in district surveys of parents, students, staff and area residents there was agreement that schools should be proactive.

Under the voluntary program, parents pay a $30 enrollment fee to cover program costs.

Enrollment does not guarantee a student will be tested during a random screenings. The program will be administered by Conspire, a local company that does testing for workplaces and sponsors teen town hall events.

The drug program is part of a larger undertaking started two years ago to rework health education courses. The district receive a $40,000 health and wellness grant from Colorado Department of Education to revise its curriculum.

The district was hit by a drug incident in 2008 when Colorado Springs police uncovered a “significant” black tar heroin problem at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Former students and others were arrested in a bust linked to the school, but no students were arrested.

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