Lake Travis ISD rolls out voluntary drug testing program

Lake Travis ISD drug testing program sign-up sheet (KXAN Photo)
Lake Travis ISD drug testing program sign-up sheet (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Monday, students at Lake Travis High School can voluntarily sign up for random drug testing, but ultimately their parents have the final say.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity and it goes on your resume, so when you go to college that’s a huge thing to say that I voluntarily took part in this and I want to be a part of this,” said Koby Wheeler, a sophomore at Lake Travis High School who plans to sign up.

The new program is called Leader For Life. Lake Travis Independent School District said along with a random drug test, the program is made up of education, leadership and accountability components for students.

“If you sign up, you have that excuse at a party if somebody is trying to peer pressure you into that, you have the opportunity to say, ‘Hold on I have voluntary drug testing I signed up for,’ so they have the opportunity to say no and have something to back it up,” said Wheeler.

If randomly selected, a student would have to give a saliva swab which would test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, opiates and alcohol.

The district said ten percent of the eligible testing pool, which ends up being no more than 200 specimens, will be tested each round. That’s about six rounds a school year, according to Lake Travis ISD. “Obviously we hope none of our kids ever test positive in this, but we’ve also put some things in place that if they do, we’re able to support them and their parents so they get the help they need,” said Lake Travis High School Principal Kimberly Brents.

If a student fails a test, their parents are notified and the student will undergo substance abuse counseling. They automatically have to take a second drug test, which would be a urine sample. “It’s not about slapping their hand, it’s more about we want to support you and help you because this is a very difficult time in their lives,” said Brents.

One of the reasons Lake Travis ISD rolled out the new plan is because of the amount of students using drugs. The district said a 2013 survey showed 35 percent of 10th and 12th grade students had used marijuana within a month of the poll.

“As a district we really have struggled with how to support our students and their choices especially when it comes to the illegal use of drugs,” said Brents. “That’s a problem for every high school in the world I’m sure, and so we really wanted to create an opportunity for them, our students, to make good choices.”

Groups made up of parents and student gave feedback as to how the program should be. One mom who sat on the parent advisory panel said it’s about giving families choices.

“We don’t want it to be this top down authoritative, sort of the district is deciding that you have to do this, we want it to be a bottom up students empowering students and their parents to make the decision and to make the good choices,” explained Adele Peterman who sat on the parent committee. She has a freshman who plays football and a daughter who is a junior and in the band.

“By doing that, our hope is , it will start conversations parents will talk to their students, students will  talk to each other and it will permeate throughout the community generate a positive approach to addressing drug use in our community,” explained Peterman. “Put the decision making power where we really think it should be which is me, the parent and my children.”

LTISD said it wants the program to be empowering to students to make the decision to join.

The district said there are incentives for enrolling and being drug free, such as discounted tickets for prom and other school events. They also would be eligible to get an additional exemption from taking a final exam. Lake Travis ISD said it’s in the process of working out a deal to get students rewards to get discounts at different shops and restaurants in town.

There are consequences if a student fails the drug test.

  1. Parents will be notified and the student will begin substance abuse counseling
  2. If a student fails a second drug test, he or she will be suspended for a minimum of two contests or performances.
  3. Students can only return to their extracurricular activities once they’ve passed an approved drug test and they must complete 30 hours of community service.
  4. From there, the penalties add up. Students lose parking privileges and the result goes on their record.

The test is free for students because the district budgeted $20,000 for the drug tests, educational programs and counseling. LTISD has a contract with Southwest Consortium, a Texas-based company which specializes in student drug and alcohol testing.

The district said it chose a saliva swab method of testing because they didn’t think it was as invasive as a urine sample.

In November 2015, Manor ISD developed a drug testing program in which parents could pay $22 to have their child tested.

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