Kingsport school board seeks drug testing law change, gets safety plan

Rick Wagner • Sep 14, 2018 at 1:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Random drug testing of Tennessee high school students who normally drive to school would be explicitly allowed under a state law change the Kingsport Board of Education has voted to advocate. 

In addition, the board learned Thursday night that plans for spending state safety funds include hiring three additional part-time school resource officers, making school lobbies more secure and putting bullet-resistant coating on glass in those lobbies.


With Vice President Karen Reed-Wright absent, the board voted 4-0 to approve a resolution asking the Tennnssee School Board Association lobby for the change in drug testing law to allow student drivers into the random drug testing pool. Member Eric Hyche attended remotely. The proposal will go before the TSBA board in late September, then to its delegates for a vote in November and, if approved, the TSBA will lobby legislators in 2019 to sponsor and vote it into law.

Current state law limits random student drug testing to those in “voluntary extracurricular activities,” generally athletics but also possibly clubs and other groups that are not done for a grade or part of a grade. Board member Susan Lodal said that TSBA officials have told her some districts randomly test drivers but that many don’t.

“This definitely would give us better legal standing,” President Carrie Upshaw said of the proposal, which says it would apply to students whose “primary mode of transportation” to school was driving but would leave implementation up to the more than 130 school districts in Tennessee if they chose to drug test students randomly. She said some school districts put the whole high school population in the random drug testing pool, “which obviously wouldn’t stand up in court” under federal law.

During recent consideration of drug testing, City Attorney Mike Billingsley has advised the BOE that student drivers would not be subject to random testing, although board member Todd Golden said he believes they could be because Dobyns-Bennett High School requires a parking permit to park on campus, which he said amounts to a club of sorts.

“I think legally it’s already there. We can do it,” Golden said. Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said, “That’s not the interpretation of our legal counsel.”


The board also got a report from Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True and Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash on what the Safety Advisory Task Force formed last school year plans for Tennessee’s one-time and recurring funding for school safety. Safe Schools Grants of $96,500, up about $60,000 from last year, will provide a recurring pool of money, while the system also is to receive a one-time School Security Grant of $241,300, Nash said.

For the recurring funds, they said the plan is to hire three part-time “limited-service employees” or police retirees, which would work up to 120 days a year and be the same as two full-time ones, to work at the elementary schools and Cora Cox Academy. They would be in addition to two SROs at D-B and D-B EXCEL and one each at the two middle schools. Increasing mental health services at elementary schools is also planned.

For one-time funds, video phones at every outside entrance, updating school receptionist windows, putting bullet-resistant film on lobby glass windows and doors are planned, in addition to updating signs and lighting, landscaping, making new safety protocols for events like field days, doing away with sensor-unlocking doors, funding safety equipment needs and replacement of outdated existing cameras.




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