2011-03-17 / Local & State

Central Fulton Tackles Tough Policy Changes

Drug testing, nut allergies addressed
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Issues delving into nuts and allergies as well as drug testing student athletes and drivers were tackled through several policies newly adopted or revised by the Central Fulton School Board last Tuesday.

District Superintendent Dwayne Northcraft told the “News” the presence of peanuts and any other variety of tree nuts is currently prohibited from the entire McConnellsburg Elementary due to several students having severe allergies. The decision to keep the entire facility nut free was made during the 2010-11 school year.

However, unanimous board action taken on March 8 extended that nut-free provision through the upcoming 2011-12 year but only in the K4-K5 wing. Meanwhile, the remainder of the elementary school, grades one through five, will follow a “504 plan” next year.

Northcraft noted some parents had expressed concerns about why their children were prohibited from eating foods containing nuts at school.

“As a result of these concerns, the district decided to review the peanut/tree nut-free policy and discuss alternatives to having the elementary building be entirely free of peanuts/tree nuts,” said the superintendent. “Discussions with other districts about their policies indicated it was possible to have an environment where peanuts/tree nuts were allowed, but still safe for those with the allergic reactions.”

Northcraft went on to say that due to the K4-K5 students being so young, those specific years will be spent teaching appropriate safety precautions regarding nuts. Furthermore, packed lunches are also searched for food items that may be dangerous to students who have allergies.

Next year, the “504 Accommodation Plan” of the Americans with Disabilities Act will be implemented for older elementary children and will outline what specific accommodations will be provided in conjunction with their disability, such as an allergic reaction.

In addition to giving a nod of approval to keeping the K4-K5 wing nut free, the board went on to accept revised Controlled Substances/ Paraphernalia Policy #227. The policy defines controlled substances as look-alike drugs, alcohol beverages, anabolic steroids, drug paraphernalia, any volatile solvents or inhalants and prescription or patent drugs.

The policy, which was initially adopted in February 2002, prohibits students from “using, possession, distributing and being under the influence of any controlled substances during school hours, at any time while on school property, at any school- sponsored activity and during the time spent travelling to and from school and school-sponsored activities.”

Furthermore, the board may require participation in drug counseling, rehabilitation, testing or other programs as a condition of reinstatement at the school.

As a follow-up to revising the controlled substances / paraphernalia policy, the board adopted newly created Policy #227.1 entitled “Drug Testing for Extra- Curricular Activities including Athletics and Student Driving Privileges.”

The policy maintains that participation in these activities and driving are a “privilege and not a right” and takes into consideration data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey in 2008 and 2010, which revealed the amount of drug usage in eighth grade in 2008 doubled in comparison to the same grade level two years later.

The purpose of the policy is “to prevent student participation in extracurricular programs and students with driving privileges from using drugs; to protect the health and safety of students; to prevent accidents and injuries, resulting from the use of alcohol or controlled substances; and to provide drug and alcohol users with assistance programs.”

Testing in connection with this policy will be performed without warning to students, who are asked to complete a consent form prior to the start of the new school and at the beginning of each sporting season. Up to 75 percent of the affected students may be tested and will be chosen at random by administrators.

A motion to accept the new policy was made by board members Linda Garber and Chris Hann and passed on a 7-1 roll-call vote. Board member Ryan Richards voted against the policy and told the “News” his dissenting vote was due to the “unconstitutionality” of a select group of students being randomly drug tested without suspicion.

Richards said, “Taxpayers should not have to pay for a policy that in many cases does not deter drug use.”

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