STOCKTON -- With one administrator saying drugs and alcohol are "a major problem" among sports participants at Lincoln High School, Lincoln Unified's school board is considering instituting mandatory random drug testing of its student athletes.
More than 100 people, including many students, jammed the district boardroom Wednesday night to discuss the proposal. The school board is expected to vote on the matter at a future meeting.
Under the proposal, students would have to consent in writing to the possibility of being tested to participate in sports, including cheerleading. Students younger than 18 would need parental consent to agree to the testing but would not be allowed to participate in sports without that consent.
Over the course of a team's season, about 15 percent of the participants would be summoned for testing, at random and without warning. The randomness means some team members could be tested multiple times in the same season, others not at all.
Superintendent Tom Uslan said the purpose of the testing which would begin for the fall 2013 sports season is to help students, not punish them, and that law enforcement would not be notified of positive tests.
Uslan said the confidentiality of athletes who fail tests would be protected and they could rejoin their teams almost immediately. A return to action would be contingent upon an athlete receiving medical clearance or providing a clean drug test, and showing proof of enrollment in a district-approved six-week drug-education program. Uslan said the district would offer its own, free program.
Testing would be paid for through financial contributions, Uslan said, adding that the district already has lined up donors.
Uslan declined to say why the district is bringing forward a drug-testing proposal at this specific moment. But according to a document included in the agenda for Wednesday's meeting, there is "an unexpectedly high number of suspensions of student athletes at Lincoln High School for drug and/or alcohol-related offenses." The document said sports participation is a "privilege" some students have abused "by using drugs while participating in athletic activities and by encouraging other students to use drugs."
Vice Principal Joe Hancock said two of the 10 drug-related suspensions since the school year began five weeks ago were of student athletes, and substance abuse is a "major problem" among athletes at the school. According to district data, 21 percent of the 219 drug- and alcohol-related suspensions of Lincoln High students in the past three years were of athletes.
Cited in the agenda document was the death nearly four years ago of a Lincoln High student "as a result of using drugs" away from the school with a student athlete. The 17-year-old girl died in January 2009 of what the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office said was a fatal combination of Oxycodone, Valium and Xanax.
If Lincoln Unified ultimately enacts a drug-testing policy, it will be the first of the large San Joaquin County school districts to do so. Uslan said the nearest district with a drug-testing policy for its athletes is Bret Harte Union High School District in Angels Camp, which adopted its program in 2003. Nationally, about one of every seven districts has a drug-testing policy, according to the most recent Department of Education data.