Drug testing at Grapevine-Colleyville schools remains controversial

GRAPEVINE -- The Grapevine-Colleyville school district's random-drug-testing program has been in place for five years, but it still generates plenty of discussion at board meetings.

At Monday's meeting, it was reported that 10 to 40 percent of students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities are tested for illegal substances each year in the district.

"Marijuana is trending upward," said Steve Trachier, executive director of administration, adding that the positive tests amount to less than 4 percent of students tested.

At Colleyville Heritage High School, 385 students were tested during the 2009-10 year. Fifteen tests were positive for marijuana and one for Ecstasy.

Grapevine High School tested 389 students. Fourteen tests were positive for marijuana, two for amphetamines and one for cocaine.

No one in the district has ever tested positive for steroid use, Trachier said.

Some trustees said they would like to see the program expanded.

"I would like to look at testing students who drive cars onto campuses, not just the extracurriculars," Trustee Lisa Hall said.

To participate in extracurricular activities, students must sign waivers to submit to testing. Positive tests can lead to permanent suspension from activities.

The program's annual budget is $27,000. The drug tests cost $13.50 each, while a steroid test costs $115. While steroid tests on student-athletes are conducted by the University Interscholastic League and paid for with state funds, the district also does steroid testing.

Some wonder whether the money could be better spent.

"I see that $27,000, and I see half a teacher," board President Charlie Warner said. "I can tell you it is a very effective deterrent, but the kids not in UIL activities are not deterred because they're not being tested anyway. I think we could save a lot of money by cutting back on those and cutting back on the steroid testing."

Hall disagreed.

"I would hate to see us cut that budget," she said.

Pay raises

In other action, trustees approved a budget amendment that will take $470,605 from the district's fund balance to cover teacher pay raises that the state recently mandated.

A ruling by the Texas attorney general's office requires districts to pay teachers, counselors, speech pathologists, nurses and librarians the regular "step" raises they earn based on experience, regardless of whether the district has frozen other wages and pay increases.

The increase amounts to $890 per person, though not everyone in the targeted professional categories will be owed step money.

Other district employees will not get a pay raise this year.

"We were anticipating the attorney general delivering a decision on this," Superintendent Robin Ryan said. "It was a different amount than we had initially proposed to cover the compliance costs."

The board had set aside $350,000 in the 2010-11 budget to cover the raises in case they were required.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657