Tifton -- Tift County could become the first school system in our area to institute a tough drug-testing policy for students.
The school board is finalizing the policy, and Thursday night parents got together to learn more about the plan that could be passed next month.
"Our intent here with the drug testing is not to try to catch kids doing drugs. Our intent here is to deter drug use," said Tift County Athletic Director Mike Collier speaking on the mandatory drug testing proposal set forth by the board of education last year.
"This is going to equate to about 700 to 800 students from what we can equate right now," said Collier.
Parents gathered to learn more about plan aimed at administering random, mandatory drug tests 3 times a year to students in grades 7-12 that participate in voluntary, extracurricular school activities.
Parents like Tommy Rockwell welcome the policy. He said, "First of all, I feel positive in knowing that he (my son) is not involved with drugs. But if he is involved, I would like to know. I think it's for his own protection and our protection also."
If passed by the board next month, 20% of students involved in voluntary activities, whether it be softball or FFA for example, would be randomly tested for 5 illicit drugs: amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine and its derivatives, opiates, and phencyclidine.
If a students does not pass a drug test, they will be suspended from the activity for 2 weeks followed by mandatory counseling for the student and their parent(s). The student would not be allowed to participate until they can pass a second drug test.
Students who fail a drug test won't be suspended from school and won't face criminal charges, but if they fail a drug test more than once, longer suspensions would follow, including dismissal from the sport or activity.
Students with parking permits will also be randomly selected for drug tests if the measure passes.
"We just want to give our kids a positive opportunity or a chance to make that positive choice in their life as compared to activities in school or to entering into a life of using illegal drugs," Collier said.
While a final proposal will written up for the next scheduled February board meeting, if passed, the drug testing could begin as early as next fall.