COAL TOWNSHIP - A sweeping drug policy impacting student eligibility for athletics, band and clubs was approved Wednesday by the Shamokin Area School Board.

All students in seventh through 12th grades must agree to random drug testing in order to join an extracurricular activity or to receive a parking permit. Parental consent is also necessary.

One failed test results in a 30-day suspension from all extracurriculars and parking privileges. A student must pass another test to be reinstated. A second failed test within six years or less brings about permanent suspension. Both punishments call for district officials to search students' property, including vehicles, and also mandate drug and alcohol counseling.

A positive drug test, however, will not result in suspension or expulsion from school. It also will not become part of students' permanent records. But should a student be found to have tampered with a test, including providing or receiving a sample from another student, they are subject to suspension or expulsion.

The policy applies "but is not limited" to all junior high, junior varsity and varsity sports teams including cheerleaders, all music organizations including orchestra and vocal ensembles, as well as the following clubs: art, audio/visual, Bible, chemistry, chess, environmental, Indian Pride, Indian Times, Interact, Key, math, National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, Students Against Bullying, computer, student council, tech ed, The Works and Varsity Club.

Parents are permitted to register a student for random drug testing even if they don't play sports or belong to a club or drive to school.

As soon as this month

Testing will begin as early as this month once consent forms are signed and a contract with a testing agency is in place. The district will look to contract with WorkPlace Health, Shamokin, according to director Jeffrey L. Kashner, board vice president. The firm will perform testing on campus, he said. Up to 20 students a month, or during an athletic season, will be tested. Prior notice will not be given.

"This policy is not meant to embarrass anybody," Kashner said. "It's to protect the health and safety of our students."

Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, steroids and prescription medications are among the drugs for which there will be screening. A valid prescription would negate a positive test. Results are kept confidential. Samples are to be destroyed upon graduation.

The school district will pay the cost for all tests, except in the event a positive test is challenged. The cost won't be determined until a contract is in place.

Must prove problem

According to a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, all public school districts with drug testing policies must adhere to certain criteria, including having documentation of a drug problem within the school district.

Kashner said Shamokin Area doesn't have such data gathered. In the event the district's policy is challenged in court, he said he is "certain" it could prove the existence of drug abuse at Shamokin Area.