Random Drug Testing: The Veil Lifted


Andy Newman

In November of 2014, the Medina City Schools Board of Education assigned Mr. Jeff Harrison, then Athletic Director, to begin researching the in-and-outs of how a random drug testing policy would fit into MHS.

In search of guidance from the community, a survey was released which came to a close August 28, 2015. On September 8, 2015, Superintendent Dave Knight presented the results of this survey to the Board.

See results here: Drug Test Survey

Due to some initial controversy caused by this policy, The Medinamite interviewed Director of Educational Services, Dr. Kristine Quallich, and Mr. Harrison, who this summer moved from AD to MHS Principal. Based on these interviews, answers to the questions parents have been stressing over have fallen into place.

One of the biggest issues people have with the policy is that student athletes will be the only group being tested.

“We are not legally allowed to test every student in our school because we’re a public school, so if you look at private schools, (e.g., St. Ignatius) they have school-wide testing policies, but when you sign your student up to attend there you’re making a choice. People don’t make a choice to come to public school, it’s a right, so we cannot (legally) test every student in the district,” said Dr. Quallich. “We can test all co-curriculars and extracurriculars and we could test students that get parking passes, but that’s where if you made a continuum of where it’s legally safe and where you get a little bit more risky, it would be with parking passes…I think that there’s a perception that we only care about athletes, but that’s really not it. It’s just the safest place to start on legal ground.”

Mr. Harrison agreed, stating, “We’re not legally allowed to test anyone outside of competitive extracurriculars; however, some school districts take it as far as chess club. We as a district believe we should start small with what we truly do believe to be competitive extracurriculars, which would be 9-12 athletics, consisting of about 600 students. We think that would be a nice sample to start with to see if it (random drug testing) will fit into our program.”

Another aspect in question is how the Board plans to obtain funding for testing. Mr. Harrison and Dr. Quallich alike have been informed that the entirety of the funds for the first year will be coming from the Medina County Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health Board.

Mr. Harrison elaborated, “The first year we wouldn’t be costing the district any money whatsoever, which again is a nice way for starting the program. At the end of year one, we can see and evaluate whether it’s worth our $6,000 or not… many people chose general funding as their preferred payment method within the survey.”

In addition, there have been many questions asked regarding what would happen to a positive-testing student. Dr. Quallich stressed that it would be all about helping the student through intervention and counselling.

In an effort to conserve student’ focus on academics during the school day, parents may be asked to take a student to an outside source, bringing in a letter of confirmation regarding the completion of whatever intervention has been deemed appropriate.

Dr. Quallich emphasized that any help the student could want would absolutely be accessible to them through the school.

“The goal is not punishment. The goal is treatment and to help students.” Quallich stated.

In a previous edition of this story, Liddy Thies covered how the tests would be conducted as well as how the randomness of the program would be implemented and those answers remain relevant today.

Some parents still believe these tests are intrusive in nature, but Mr. Harrison says, “If everyone takes the time to become educated on the topic, then they start to believe that it’s less and less intrusive. Yes, there is a level of intrusiveness to it, but I also understand that our student athletes are choosing to participate. We’re also looking out for their health and well-being; it’s no less intrusive than teams that change together in a locker room. I’ll never be aware of any other drugs they may have to take, I’m only informed if they test positive for one of the illegal drugs on the list.”