Kingsport school board to hold public hearing on student drug testing

Rick Wagner • Apr 13, 2018 at 2:34 PM

KINGSPORT — As promised during the last Kingsport school board work session, the board has set a public hearing on random student drug testing of students as allowed under Tennessee law.

The Kingsport City Schools Board of Education will hold the public hearing Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Tennessee Room at the KCS Administrative Support Center, 400 Clinchfield St. That is in the Press Building above the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

The purpose of the public hearing, announced Tuesday, is to receive public comment on the topic of random drug testing of selected KCS high school students in extra-curricular activities. The hearing will take place as the first agenda item at the board's regularly scheduled work session. All board work sessions are open to the public.

At its March 27 work session, the board reviewed a rough draft of sorts for a student drug testing plan, which based on Tennessee Code Annotated 49-6-4213 would apply only to “voluntary extracurricular activities,” further defined in the rough draft as those in three groups: student athletes, cheerleaders and spirit squad members.

It would not, and legally in Tennessee could not, apply to co-curricular activities, such as band, theater or choir, that result in a grade, nor would it apply to members of other clubs. Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said going beyond TSSAA athletes, cheerleaders and spirit squad members was in “very fuzzy” territory.

The Sullivan County school board also is considering a random drug testing policy, proposed by member Mark Ireson, but it remains to be seen if its final form would go beyond what the Kingsport draft would do, and neither board has taken a vote. The city report came in a presentation by Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True, Dobyns-Bennett High Principal Chris Hampton, Athletic Director Larry Shively and Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash. 

Presentations to both boards emerged after a meeting in Kingsport in February organized by Susie Winkelman Weatherall, who has a daughter in a KCS middle school and a son at Dobyns-Bennett. Among discussions at the meeting was support for student drug testing.

Weatherall announced on her Facebook page on March 6 that she is “forming a non-profit organization called ‘Kingsport Cares Coalition’ and our first goal is to establish Drug-free Clubs” at D-B, Tennessee High and Sullivan East, Central, North and South. “We hope to partner with Ballad Health and other community/business leaders to support this initiative for encouraging our youth to live drug-free lives.” Bristol, Tenn., schools already have student drug testing. 

In order to facilitate the public input in an efficient and orderly fashion, a KCS news release said: 

— All individuals wishing to comment will sign in to indicate their desire to speak before the board, identifying themselves by name and address.

— Speakers will limit comments to five minutes to allow for the maximum possible number of viewpoints to be heard.

— Per Board Policy 1.404 — Public Communications at Board Meetings, all comments will be a matter of public record.

— Comments regarding system personnel or personnel matters are not appropriate during the public hearing.

— Speakers may not refer to students by name without permission from the parent or guardian.

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