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Kingsport BOE input session on student drug testing draws only one speaker

Rick Wagner • Updated Apr 18, 2018 at 9:46 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport City Schools parent Susie Weatherall was the lone speaker at Tuesday night’s public input session on potential high school random drug testing. Another person had indicated interest in speaking but passed when called upon.

At a February community meeting and others since, Weatherall and her husband have supported random drug testing and more recently proposed the formation of Drug Free Clubs of America chapters in Kingsport, Sullivan County and other surrounding school systems as discussed by Wayne Campbell of the Tyler’s Light program that has been presented at Dobyns-Bennett and other local schools.

After the first community meeting, the Kingsport and Sullivan County school boards have discussed random student drug testing as allowed by Tennessee law and two U.S. Supreme Court rulings but have taken no action.

“We are concerned about the drug culture in our schools,” Weatherall told the Board of Education, saying illegal drugs as well as misused prescription ones are at issue. “Where are the policies and programs in place to prevent students from starting?”

The mother of four KCS students, including one at D-B, said that students have indicated to her that heroin has been bought and sold in a D-B math class and that sending drug-sniffing dogs into the school is dangerous because students will try to ingest illegal drugs to keep from being caught with them.

Outisde the work session after the public comments, Weatherall said she hopes the board will include competitive marching band if it enacts drug testing.

A city rough draft proposal, or starting point, as recently written and reviewed by the board would randomly test only student-athletes, cheerleaders and spirit squad members. Board member Todd Golden said during a question and answer session with City Attorney Mike Billingsley, before public comment, that he believes drug testing could be applicable to competitive marching band members, too.

Billingsley said the board could do a narrow or broader plan so long as the activity involved was a “voluntary extracurricular activity,” one that a student could walk away from and have no consequence in a grade reduction or school punishment. That phrase is outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-64-213.

After the public comment period, Weatherall in the hall outside the work session said the lack of comment from other parents concerned her, whether they support drug testing or not. 

“The schools have our kids six, seven, eight hours a day. They’re outside our care,” said Jeff Weatherall, Susie Weatherall’s husband and a physician. He said he’d like to see Kingsport City Schools have a safe environment for students and be more proactive like schools that do drug testing, including Science Hill in Johnson City and Tennessee High in Bristol.

“I feel like they’re (school officials) just a little bit behind their times with their approach,” he said, adding that school officials seem to being saying “the parents should be doing this for us.”

Susie Weatherall said she is talking with D-B Principal Chris Hampton about the proposed club, who she said is talking with Billingsley to be sure it would be allowed in the public school. She also said it will need community support because not all students could afford the $70 fee to join the national nonprofit group.

“If my kids play sports, I’m fine with them being tested,” Jeff Weatherall said.

Susie Weatherall added: “We’ve got to start somewhere” in steering teenagers in the right direction.

 

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