The Jan. 9 meeting of Tyler County Board of Education welcomed Angie Ferguson, a representative of Drug Free Clubs of America, who spoke to the group about the benefits of her organization. Ferguson approached the board in hopes of instituting the program in Tyler County. Drug Free Clubs of America, whose goal is to empower students to resist peer pressure when confronting drug use, is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The program is an all voluntary drug testing program for students which uses positive reinforcement and a reward system to encourage students to remain drug-free. Certified drug screen technicians administer the tests.
"The great thing about this program is its all-voluntary," said Ferguson. "The screen tests for 'typical' illegal drugs, such as marijuana, but also will screen for prescription drugs the student may be abusing."
Parental permission as well as student permission is required in order to participate. "If the parent wants the student to take part in the program, but the student does not, what happens?" asked board member Larry Thomas.
Ferguson explained the student could not be made to participate but "it may make for an interesting conversation at home, between the student and parent."
"Who sees the results of these tests?' questioned board President Linda Hoover.
Ferguson described the process, saying "The tests go to a laboratory and if a positive result is found, a physician notifies the parent(s). The parents are informed of the results, but no one else. It is completely confidential."
"So the school is not involved?" asked board member Ralph "Doc" Boone.
"The school has no involvement or responsibility concerning the drug testing or the results of the tests. The physician notifies only the parents and discusses the result as well as offering options to assist the child in returning to a healthy lifestyle," replied Ferguson.
When students join the program, all participants are tested initially; a minimum of two random tests are conducted during the remainder of the school year. If a student tests positive, parents are notified and the student's club membership is suspended. A student may re-enter the program by re-testing to regain active membership with full benefits.
"The program is not punitive," said Ferguson. "The goal is to reward and empower students by encouraging a drug-free lifestyle although faced with tough peer pressure to experiment with drugs."
After completing the initial drug test, students receive a photo ID Club Card which can be used at school and participating businesses to receive rewards. This incentive program reinforces healthy behaviors, according to Ferguson.
Some area schools are already implementing the idea, Ferguson told the board. "It gives students an 'out' when they can say no to drugs because they are being tested," said Ferguson. "We've had interest from several schools," she added.
The program was created by Medicount Management, Inc. of Cincinnati, Oh., which is primarily a medical billing, collection and records management company. Cost of the club membership is $60 per student. In the Tyler County area, a private donor would pay $40 of the fee.
Board members thanked Ferguson for the information and will place it on an upcoming agenda for discussion. The board will consider the creation of the club for the next school year.
The board approved budget revisions as well as the TCHS 2012 football schedule at the meeting.
Trip requests approved included: 24 students from fourth and fifth grade choir to West Liberty University on Feb. 11; fourth and fifth grade eligible students transported to AIB Jan. 30 for Tyler Co. Math Field Day; middle and high school students to the WV Vocal Solo and Ensemble Festival (West Liberty University) Feb. 11; and seven students to WV High School All State Chorus auditions in Brooke Co. on Feb. 23.
A request was granted for TCMS sixth grade students to play exhibition basketball games Jan. 10 and 17; and a request to use the TCHS gymnasium on Sunday afternoons from Jan. - April for the purpose of Club Volleyball practice.
Resignations were accepted from Heather Mercer, substitute teacher, countywide, effective immediately; Jake White, substitute maintenance, effective immediately; and William Minger, substitute bus operator, effective immediately.
Authorization of payment of bills was approved; the board also held a brief executive session before adjourning.
The next meeting of the board will be Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.