by Callahan Jones
Cedar Cliff school district has enacted a new drug testing policy that it has been carefully developing for the past two years. Under the policy, all students at the high school who are involved in extracurriculars will undergo drug testing. Cedar Cliff, encompassing Cedarville High, Middle and Elementary schools, is the only public school district in Greene County to have a drug testing policy for extracurricular involvement.
The main point of the policy, according to Chad Haemmerle, principal of Cedarville High School, is the prevention of drug abuse and helping students in tough situations.
“The policy is here to give a good kid an out,” said Haemmerle. “A kid who is maybe in a situation where some of their friends are passing a joint around and they can say ‘I can’t do that, my school does random drug testing.’”
Chad Mason, Cedar Cliff superintendent, says that the policy is also about safety.
“The first thing I think about is football,” Mason said. “I don’t need guys out there under the influence of something banging their heads into other people. That’s not a good mix.”
Under the 2017-2018 policy, all students involved in fall extracurriculars were tested at the beginning of the school year, and all students involved in spring extracurriculars will be tested at the beginning of next semester. In addition, randomly selected students will be tested periodically. The policy defines an extracurricular as “any activity of a competitive nature that does not involve a grade.”
Mason said the school board has not yet decided if this blanket test policy will continue and all students involved in a semester of extracurriculars will be tested in the future, or if random drug tests of the pool of students will be sufficient. This decision will likely fall toward random drug tests only, according to Haemmerle, because they aren’t focused on catching students, just helping them.
“If we act like Cedarville at some level doesn’t have a drug problem, I think we’re just sticking our head in the sand,” Haemmerle said. “While I don’t think we’ve ever had one student who’s used heroin or the harder substances, it’s the good decision making now that keeps them out of that.”
Because of this focus, the penalties involved in the program are focused on prevention and education. Before they are tested, students are given a chance to confess that they will not pass the drug test. If they choose to do so, they are given much more leniency.
A confession leads to classes and further education about the dangers of drug use. A failed test sans confession leads to the same, but also results in suspension from participation in the extracurricular on a first offense. Further offenses lead to more drastic punishments, including longer suspensions from their extracurricular, removal from an extracurricular team or suspension from school for several days.
The policy was first brought forward by members of the school board. It was then developed over time with input from several sources, including other Ohio schools who have similar policies, online surveys of the parents of students and several community town halls.
“People had specific concerns, we wanted to address those concerns,” Mason said. “One thing we got back from the community was that they didn’t really want the middle school kids being tested, so we said, ‘Okay, we’ll wait, and we made it grades 9-12.’”
According to Mason, the popular opinion of the policy changed quite positively by the end of the polling process.
“We started the process with around 60 percent approval from parents and ended up with around 75-80 percent,” Mason said. “While we probably would have continued with the program regardless, we still wanted to make a program that would make people happy.”
The coach of Cedarville High School’s golf team, Jeff Gilbert, said the school’s sports coaches were brought into the decision making process as well.
“We had a coach’s meeting last year with the athletic director,” Gilbert said. “He just let us know it was in the works. They wanted to know if we had any feedback or ideas.”
Gilbert said that he is a fan of how the program turned out and appreciates that the program focuses on education and prevention, rather than being strictly punishment-based.
Lori Myers, a parent of a high school senior, is happy with where the policy ended up.
“Basically, this drug issue is a problem everywhere, and I think this policy is a good way to help both parents and the school,” Myers said. “I like that they aren’t looking to catch kids — they’re looking to help them and teach them instead of just kicking them out.”
Overall, the school seems confident that it has accomplished its mission in creating a drug-testing policy that encourages good decision-making, avoids focusing on punishment and is supported by the majority of the community. While the exact details of the future for the policy are unclear, those who implemented it are happy with what they’ve done.
“This wasn’t a decision we flippantly went into,” Mason said. “I feel now that the decision is made, we got it right. We’re doing it in a way that fits in our community, and I think a majority here will tell you the same.”
Callahan Jones is a junior journalism major and the Digital and Design editor for Cedars. In his free time, he enjoys making coffee, collecting headphones and playing games with friends.