Random tests show little illicit drug use in Raytown high schools

If the numbers are to be believed, illegal drug use may have stopped almost entirely among Raytown high school students.

Results of three rounds of unannounced testing at Raytown and Raytown South high schools are in. A service conducted 150 tests, 75 at each school.

At Raytown South, technicians collected a total of two positive, or what the district calls “non-negative,” results indicating drug use.

At Raytown, they collected none.

Those results represent 1.3 percent of students tested.

This past summer, while conducting forums on whether students should be tested, district officials released survey results indicating that more than 23 percent of the district’s sophomores had tried marijuana, compared to 16 percent statewide.

Perhaps the 1.3 percent is an anomaly.

“I don’t think we are naive enough to believe that this will continue through 450 tests over the course of the school year,” said Bob Glasgow, the district’s activities director.

Or maybe the students are aware of the drug tests, and aren’t using drugs.

This year the Raytown School District became the first Kansas City area urban public school district to adopt random student drug testing, a policy in place at about one-fourth of public school districts statewide. That’s despite the misgivings of some.

In September, the Eastern Missouri chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a preliminary injunction to stop administrators at a central Missouri college from subjecting students to mandatory drug testing.

Last month a federal judge agreed, and the practice stopped at Linn State Technical College.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have upheld the right of districts to test high school students who participate in athletics or extracurricular activities.

“It is constitutional,” said Doug Bonney, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “But it is still foolish. What schools have found is that the populations they can test — kids involved in sports, band or theater — are the kids least likely to do drugs.”

Raytown administrators maintain the community supports the testing.

Students have been less demonstrative, said Audrey Drace, a Raytown High junior.

“The students are joking about it because they don’t want to pee into a cup,” she said.

“But I think it could be an awakening for the school. There are students who think this could be a good thing because of the students who now are beginning to think ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do drugs.’ ”

Test day arrives

Just outside the Theater Department dressing room, a handful of students fidget in their chairs.

Then, one by one, they are sent inside.

Individual students are called from their classrooms, sent to a discreet location, told to remove their jackets and empty their pockets, given sterile cloths to wipe their hands and then presented small plastic vials before being pointed toward a restroom.

The only mishap on this November day is the occasional nonfunction of a routine bodily function.

“If you need to drink some water, it’s right there,” Brad Drace, Raytown High’s activities director and father of Audrey, tells one student.

One objection to the testing, heard during this summer’s forums, was cost.

In July the Raytown Board of Education selected Employee Screening Services of Springfield, which submitted an $11,735 bid for 450 tests.

This outlay came after the same board, during the spring of 2010, completed several rounds of budget cuts that totaled about $3.9 million.

“Generally it is a huge waste of money for schools to do this,” Bonney said.

Allan Markley, district superintendent, said he could live with that criticism.

“For the amount of money that we have spent, if we did have kids who decided to clean up their act, that money was well spent,” he said.

The consequences

Forty names.

Forty numbers.

As students file down to the Theater Department dressing room, activities director Drace refers back to his clipboard.

The Raytown district mandates that students who participate in athletics or school-sponsored activities such as theater, as well as those who park cars on campus, sign up for the tests. This past summer 81 percent of Raytown High students signed up, along with 76 percent at Raytown South.

Days before the test, Employee Screening Services had forwarded a list of 80 numbers. Those represented 40 students each at Raytown and Raytown South; 25 students and 15 alternates.

Students who pass the initial on-site testing receive a page summarizing the results.

Those who do not pass have their sample set aside for further analysis. In some instances, subsequent testing revealed that “non-negative” results were triggered by various approved medications.

But in two instances the tests revealed the presence of illegal drugs or drug families.

“It tests for marijuana, opiates and a variety of substances, some that are household names and some that are not so common and which some kids are experimenting with right now,” Glasgow said.

The two Raytown students, Glasgow said, forfeited the right to participate in sports or extracurriculars, as well as the right to park on campus for 30 days.

Students have told Markley that some of their colleagues have said the tests persuaded them to either stop using drugs.

That is the point, Markley added — not the punitive action.

“Maybe we will be able to get that number to zero percent,” he said.