Before sophomores, juniors and seniors at Central High can lace up their shoes or polish their instruments for practice this year, many will have to take a drug test for the first time.
That's because Central students face a new drug testing policy when they return to school on Aug. 25.
According to the new policy, students in grades 10-12 who wish to participate in "extra-curricular and co-curricular activities" will be required first to pass a drug test.
And afterward, samples of students in grades nine through 12 taking part in activities will have random monthly drug tests.
For those wishing to take part in some fall activities, the deadline for the first drug test is fast-approaching.
Those wanting to play football, volleyball, soccer, golf or participate in cheerleading or band, must get their drug test completed by Aug. 15.
Other mid-fall activities, like speech, drama, debate and student council, have an Oct. 8 deadline.
The consequences for failing a drug test vary.
If it’s a student’s first offense, according to the policy, consequences could include a conference between parents, administrators and coaches, suspension from the activity and 10 hours of community service.
For the second offense, students must also pay for and obtain a substance abuse evaluation. Students must also perform 20 hours of community service.
And for the third offense, there are academic consequences: a student could be expelled.
Billings Catholic Schools president Harold Olson said the new policy isn't designed to be punitive or address any drug problem at the school, but he said they are implementing it as a preventative, educational measure.
Central’s principal, Shel Hanser, said the new policy will provide students with a tool for positive decision-making.
Olson said discussions about the policy started last April and that they had a “half-dozen meetings about it,” where “lots of revisions” were made “before we had a final product.”
Olson said some had questions about the policy at first, but since, he said, “all responses have been positive.”
The drug testing is paid for by the school and conducted at Billings Clinic. However, policy states that if follow-up testing is necessary, it will be paid for by the student’s parents.
The policy also says that the drug testing program is available to parents “who would like to have testing done even if their son or daughter is not in an activity.”
"The goal of this program is to prevent illegal substance use, to educate students to the serious physical, mental, and emotional harm caused by use, to identify students with possible abuse problems, and to strive within BCS for an environment free of illegal substance abuse.
"Most importantly, this program will provide a tool by which students can resist the pressure to engage in these dangerous and illegal activities," the new policy states.
Below is a list of affected activities:
Fall: All football, volleyball, cross-country, cheer, golf, soccer and pep band participants are required to be tested. Testing window: Aug 4-15
Mid-fall: All speech, drama, debate, music, science olympiad and student council participants, who haven’t already been tested, are required to take a drug test prior to the first practice. Testing window: Oct. 1-8.
Winter: All wrestling, basketball, swimming and winter cheer participants who have not previously tested are required to take a drug test prior to the first practice. Testing window: Nov. 17-21. School musical participants who haven’t previously tested are required to test Jan. 5-9.
Spring: All track, tennis and softball participants who haven’t previously tested are required to take a drug test prior to the first practice. Testing window: March 9-13.