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Reed football starts drug testing
by Dan Eckles
Aug 17, 2009 | 684 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A year ago, the McQueen High football program enacted a drug-testing program and now others are following suit. A local school is among those. Student-athletes who want to play football at Reed High School will be required to take part in the Raiders' random urine drug-testing program.

Last month, Reed officials held a football parent meeting and had to get a two-thirds majority approving the drug-testing program before it could be implemented.

"We had our parent meeting and everyone had to sign the paperwork, explaining the policy or their athlete couldn't go out for football," Reed High Athletic Administrator Al Babb said. "I haven't had one complaint about why we're doing this or saying it's not fair. Obviously, the parents are in favor of it."

The drug-testing program did indeed get the needed support and the eight-week program began earlier this past week. At Reed, varsity, JV and freshman football players will be tested. Ten players will be selected randomly a week to take the tests.

"We feel this is something very important to us," Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. "We want our kids to work hard in the classroom, on the football field and not do things that put their health in jeopardy or our team."

The drug tests will test athletes for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, anabolic steroids and ecstasy among other drugs. Any athletes who do test positive for a banned substance will not be reported to law enforcement, but they will be subject to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association's policies and the consequences that apply.

"This is just another step we're taking to show our program is doing everything it can to hold our kids accountable to be good football players and individuals," Howren said.

Babb said he'd like to see drug testing implemented for all sports at all schools.

"I think this ought to be put into place for all students participating in extra-curricular activities, band, ROTC, not just football," he said. "This is an iceberg and football is just the tip. I'm not at all suggesting our football program has a problem. We're just trying to be proactive."

The biggest hurdle to expanded testing at Reed or district wide is funding. The Reed football program will be picking up the tab, which Babb estimated to be around $4,000. Not all schools and sport programs have the financial backing or desire to pick up that price tag.

"I really do wish we could do it district wide," said Ken Cass, the Washoe County School District's Director of Student Services. "But we can't require schools to do something we can't fund. That wouldn't be right."

Katherine Loudon, the WCSD's Administrator for Safe and Drug Free Schools, stressed that since the district does not fund the program, the school board called for a parent mandate. That's why the two-thirds parent majority was needed and why in some schools parents must agree to pay for their child's drug testing. Cass said in some instances, parents agree to pick up the $20 fee to fund the drug-testing program. This is often the case when a school's specific sport program does not pick up the tab.

If the parent of an athlete is asked to pony up a $20 drug testing fee, that is added to a $25 transportation fee, a $25 student body card fee and a $5 impact concussion management fee. In addition, many athletes are charged for a spirit pack that includes team apparel.

"It certainly is a lot. I won't lie," Cass acknowledged. "I still think the athletic programs in Washoe County are the best value going. They are cheaper than many other things parents can put their kids into."

While that may be true, the financial hardship of enacting a drug-testing program still isn't easy to overcome. It's the biggest reason no such program has been put into place at Sparks High.

"We've looked into it and the biggest thing is we'd have to ask our parents to pay another fee," SHS athletic director and football coach Rob Kittrell said. "We need to explore outside funding like grant money. It's something we'd like to pursue in the future."

The first Nevada high school to put a drug testing program in place was Green Valley High in Henderson. Cass said in his discussions with GVHS administrators, that he got nothing but positive feedback.

"Their principal told me it really changed the culture of their school," Cass said. "It went from being one of the 'party schools', with the highest rate of suspensions, to one of the bottom three (in Clark County). They were really pleased."
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