MOORESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Some students in Mooresville will soon have to undergo random drug tests during the new school year, school officials announced Tuesday.
On Tuesday, officials with the Mooresville Graded School District unanimously approved the "Random Suspicionless Student Drug Testing" policy during the Board of Education meeting.
The policy will be implemented for the upcoming 2018-2019 year. The policy states that the school district "strongly believes that drug and alcohol abuse can be detrimental to the physical and emotional health and the academic performance of its students."
School officials said the purpose of the random drug testing program is to help students and is not "punitive in nature." The board approved the policy due to there being a problem of alcohol and drug abuse among students in the school district, the policy stated.
"We do believe that even if you have one student who might show that they are using drugs then that is a problem," Mooresville Graded School District Chief Communications Officer Tanae McLean said. "If we can help one student or ten students for us - that's important."
The school district said they are "committed to continue addressing the substance abuse problem head-on rather than ignoring the problem."
Officials believe the random drug tests will be an effective tool in reducing substance abuse in Mooresville students. McLean says students are embracing the mandatory drug tests and told her it will serve as a deterrent for them when they are away from school.
"It kind of gives me an out," McLean said. "So if I am at a party and someone says, 'why don't you try this,' then that student has an out - can say, 'you know I can't take the chance because I might be selected.'"
Seventh graders to twelfth graders who are active in interscholastic athletics, extracurricular activities and who park on campus must agree to participate in the program, school officials said. The program is mandatory for those students only because participating in those activities are a "privilege, not a right," according to the policy. The district says there are about 3,000 students combined in the Middle and High Schools.
The district says parents of students who don't participate in extra-curricular activities can request their child's name to be tested. Leaders says students could get tested about four times a year. The district budgeted $10,000 for conducting the tests.
"Participation in the random drug testing program shall not be required as a condition of attending school or enrolling in any class," school officials said.
According to the policy, school officials will not take part in the tests or collection of samples. Teachers will also not select the students who will be randomly tested, school officials said.
School officials say a positive test will not automatically result in suspension from school or be forwarded to law enforcement.
Students will also not be penalized academically for testing positive for illegal drugs, according to the policy. If a student fails the first test, that student must get counseling and pass a second test. Parents will have to pay for the second test.
"We are working to make sure if a parent cannot afford the test, we will come up with the means to help that child," McLean said.
Parents are mixed about the new policy.
"On one side as a concerned parent, I'd say it probably needs to be done," parent Kim Harvey said. "On the other side, you can look at the infringing of rights - do they have the right to do that?"
Harvey says her son recently graduated from Mooresville High School and had to go in for a drug test for his job. The mother thinks the new policy will better prepare students for life.
"It's going to be out there," she said. "They are going to face that eventually. We just may have to start earlier."
Harvey's husband, Brad, also has questions about the new policy but has faith in the school board's decision.
"There are questions of due process," Brad Harvey said. "Also questions of presumption of guilt."
The school district says there is nothing illegal about the new policy and says The Supreme Court has justified the use of random drug testing of students who want to participate in voluntary competitive school sporting activities.
You can find the policy here.