Calcasieu School Board amends its athlete drug test policy

John Guidroz

After nearly an hour of discussion, the Calcasieu Parish School Board voted 9-5 Tuesday to allow athletes who fail a drug test the chance to return to the same sport if they attend counseling and pass a second drug test after 30 days. Under the old policy, athletes who fail a drug test can play in the following sports season, if they attend counseling and pass a second drug test.

Several board members said updating the district’s drug testing policy gives athletes a second chance and motivates them to seek help. Opponents argued that it opens the door for student athletes to use drugs or alcohol without fear of severe consequences.

Ten percent of teams in each high school throughout the district are tested for drugs or alcohol. Under the old policy, a football player that fails a drug test, attends counseling and passes a second drug test, can play a springtime sport, such as basketball, baseball or track.

Mack Dellafosse, District 7, said Calcasieu Parish has one of the state’s strictest drug testing policies for student athletes. Revising the policy brings Calcasieu in line with other school districts, he said. 

“These kids are still being punished; the difference is we’re giving them some other options,” he said. “You’re getting them help. You’re not just throwing them out like we’ve been doing.”

Dean Roberts, District 6, said relaxing the penalties for athletes that fail a drug test sends the wrong message.

“If (athletics) is so important to them, they need to stop doing drugs,” he said.

Damon Hardesty, District 9, said the new policy encourages student athletes to attend counseling.

“In my opinion, this is a great policy,” he said.

Russell Castille, District 12, said allowing athletes to keep playing the same sport after 30 days and a passed drug test sets a bad precedent for younger students.

“People will never learn if you keep on watering down things,” he said.

Over the past four years, 23 athletes in the district have tested positive for drugs or alcohol, Dellafosse said. These low numbers, Roberts argued, prove the current system works.

Billy Breaux, District 13, said changing the policy will hurt student athletics.

“I don’t want to be a New Orleans (or) some of these other areas that are having issues,” he said. “We’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Does it bother me that we have the strictest rules out there? Hell no.”

John Duhon, District 15, said athletes weren’t tested for alcohol when he was in high school. He admitted he and others on his high school football team drank.

“I was 17 years old and didn’t have any sense at the time. If you think these 17-year-olds have any sense today, you’re absolutely crazy. They don’t; they make a lot of mistakes. When you take a child and tell him he can’t play anymore, when that may be the most important thing in his life, get ready to open up a jail cell. You might see him in jail.”

Eric Tarver, District 8, said he could not support the new policy.

“Regardless of how you spin it, it’s loosening the rule,” he said. “That being said, I think it’s more fair to test them all than it is to test some of them.”

Voting to change the policy were Annette Ballard, Dellafosse, Duhon, Glenda Gay, Hardesty, Fredman Hardy, Alvin Smith, Desmond Wallace and Mark Young. Breaux, Bliss Bujard, Castille, Roberts, and Tarver opposed the item.

The board asked Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus and staff to gather information on testing all student athletes.

District 1 Board member Aaron Natali was not present at the meeting.

 
 

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