The Glynn County Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve the creation of a policy that will allow the school system to randomly drug test students who participate in extracurricular activities.
The school board voted unanimously to approve the policy, which is part of a larger plan to attempt to address a reported increased in the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products on school campuses.
“I feel like as a board we’re obligated to do or try something,” said school board member Mike Hulsey. “I support it 100 percent.”
Glynn County Schools Superintendent Virgil Cole also recommended the approval of the policy.
Christine Brown, whose daughter attends elementary school in Glynn County, asked the school board during the citizens comment portion of the meeting, before the vote, not to create the drug testing policy.
She said this kind of policy will negatively affect students who do not do drugs but wish to be involved in school activities by potentially putting them in an awkward, stress-inducing situation.
“You’re now going to take them out of class, you’re going to tell them that an authority figure is going to watch or listen to them urinate in order to provide a drug sample … and then you’re going to tell them that you’re going to test it in order to prove (the student’s) done nothing wrong,” Brown said.
She asked that the school board find a different approach to address this problem on school campuses and to be more proactive than reactive in handling the issue.
“We’re not going to catch the kids we’re hoping to catch,” she said. “Instead, we’re going to potentially harm the kids that have done nothing wrong.”
Hulsey said the problem has escalated to a level that the policy is a necessity.
“Unfortunately, I feel like we’re at a point where we’ve got to be proactive and reactive at the same time,” he said.
Proactive measures will also be taken as well, Hulsey said, to make sure the community comes together to address this issue.
Along with the non-punitive drug testing policy, the plan calls for an increase in the number of drug sweeps, a push to educate teachers, administrators and parents on how to identify and prevent drug and alcohol use and an increased effort to teach students about the risks that go along with drug use.
School board member Linda Bobbitt said she’s received many calls from concerned parents who do not want to see the creation of the drug testing policy.
“I do understand their concern, but I also know that it’s so important for us to get a hold on and control of the young people that we can reach,” Bobbitt said. “… If we can just deter one child from doing drugs, I think it’s worth it.”
In other business, the school board voted unanimously to approve the filing of an appeal against the recent ruling that the board pay more than $359,000 in unpaid utility fees to the Brunswick Glynn-County Joint Water and Sewer Commission.
In a recent case, Superior Court Judge Stephen Kelley ordered the school board to pay the JWSC the utility fees the school system has not paid since September 2014.
The school board had claimed that, by law, the school system is exempt from paying impact fees. The utility took the school board to court in 2015, asking Kelly to decide whether the school system was exempt from paying the fee.
School board chairman Jerry Mancil said the board chose to appeal in order to protect local taxpayers’ money.
“We feel that it’s important to protect the taxpayers’ dollars,” Mancil said. “… That’s why we’re moving forward, and we’re going to continue fighting this.”
The school board also voted 5-1 to approve the first of two presented options for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school calendars.
The calendar includes for the first time three potential make-up days in case a severe weather situation like a hurricane occurs in Glynn County during the school year, forcing school days to be canceled.