LISBON - Nine months after it was first proposed, the school board finally gave the go-ahead for officials to draft a drug-testing policy, which is expected be brought up for a vote at the June board meeting.
The decision was made at this week's meeting of the board's finance committee, which was attended by four of the five board members.
The issue was brought up by Superintendent Don Thompson, who told the board if they wanted a policy in place for the 2012-13 school year they need to let him know immediately so the athletic department would have time to draft a plan for the board to consider.
"By Aug. 10 we would have to have it in place, and with that timeline we need to get moving," he told the board.
The board has held three community hearings since last July, when member Jeff Elliott first proposed drug-testing all students as a condition for participating in extracurricular activities. A meeting was held several weeks ago, with a fourth scheduled for 7 p.m. May 8.
"Virtually across the board we have encountered no negative opinion," Thompson said, adding almost all parents and students with an opinion appear to favor a testing policy.
With that level of support, and the fact they have already met several times with officials from other school districts that have a policy, Thompson said it was time for the board to decide whether to take the next step and have a policy drafted for consideration rather than drag the process out any longer.
Board member Gene Gallo was encouraged by what he heard from the Lowellville school district, where students who test positive are required to seek treatment rather than be punished, which should Lisbon's aim too.
"I see that as a positive and what we should be doing," Gallo said, adding that although he is not necessarily in favor of such a policy, he could be if the program emphasized treatment over punishment.
"If this is about getting help for kids, I'm all for that," he said.
Board President Jim Smith agreed. "Neither one of us can say we're ready to support it ... I'm concerned that we don't want it to be a detriment. We want it to be something positive," he said.
Elliott, Peruchettti and Marti Grimm, who was not at the meeting, have indicated they favor a policy. "The whole world is about drug testing," Elliott said.
Thompson continued to quiz the board until he finally felt confident enough they wanted him to instruct the athletic department to draft a policy, which will also include who pays for the testing - the school or students - because officials are also concerned about the cost of implementing the policy.
"The board doesn't have many 3-2 votes but I can see this being one," he said.