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Rio Rancho school district passes drug-testing policy

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Suiting up will now come with the possibility of a random drug test for athletes in the Rio Rancho school district.

On Monday, the school board unanimously passed a policy that will allow for the random drug testing of students in grades eight through 12 who are playing on a district sports team.

Rio Rancho Public Schools is the first public school district in the metro area to drug test its athletes. District officials will inform parents of the policy during the annual mandatory meeting Cleveland and Rio Ranch high schools hold for the parents of all athletes at the beginning of each school year.

Bruce Carver, the district’s athletics director, brought the policy to the board a few months ago, saying he was doing it at the request of his head coaches.

“This is a unified push,” he told the board Monday. “This is not a top-down mandate. It came from the ground up. And remember, this is a deterrent, not a punishment.”

Carver said the policy will give athletes a way to resist peer pressure to do drugs. The board did not discuss the policy during the meeting but previously board members had indicated they thought the policy was necessary.

After questions from board member Catherine Cullen, Carver clarified that although steroids was listed in the policy as a “prohibited substance,” it would not actually be one of the drugs for which the district tests.

“It’s very, very expensive to test for that,” he said. “We included it in the policy because we want to discourage our athletes from using steroids.”

Drugs students will be tested for include alcohol, opiates, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methadone and barbiturates. The tests will be done on school grounds with a swab by a contractor. Carver said the results will be sent to a lab and returned within two days. He said it’s possible to get immediate results but sending the sample to a lab ensures better results.

The contractor will randomly choose students to be tested and notify the school of the names no more than 24 hours in advance.

Students who tested positive would be suspended for 20 consecutive activity days, would be required to participate in a conference with coaches and parents, and must attend counseling. Consequences would be more severe on the second violation, and students would be permanently banned from playing sports with RRPS after a third violation.

Drug testing will cost the district up to $25,000 a year.

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