Athletes at eight Clark County School District high schools may have to submit to random drug tests next year.
The district is among 50 public and private school systems that will receive $5.8 million in federal grants for random drug testing programs, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday.
The district will receive $450,000 over three years. The Clark County high schools planning to start drug testing programs are: Eldorado, Centennial, Foothill, Durango, Desert Pines, Del Sol and Mojave. Green Valley High School will continue the drug testing program it began this school year.
The new drug testing programs will begin in January 2009, which will allow time for school officials to seek community input.
Green Valley's program has been supported so far by community donations and student fees.
"Green Valley will be the model to follow," Desert Pines Principal Tim Stephens said.
Stephens anticipates that testing will check for substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and steroids.
The testing is an opportunity for students to buck peer pressure, Stephens said, since they can use the threat of a random drug test as an excuse not to do drugs.
Green Valley Principal Jeff Horn said the Henderson school's effort has been a success, since only eight students of the 250 students tested this spring had positive results. That's 3 percent.
In 2007-08, Horn said, 8 percent of student athletes got into trouble because of drugs at school.
"It shows you the numbers are down," Horn said.
But Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said studies of random drug testing programs have been inconclusive.
Lichtenstein said random testing could be counterproductive, because it might scare kids away from participating in sports and other extracurricular activities, depriving them of a healthy alternative to drugs.
Lichtenstein acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld random drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities.
But he views the local program as a "waste of money" at a time when schools are facing challenges such as large class sizes and poor math scores.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.