Superintendent answers critics over drug policies

By Ken Esten Cooke —

 

Asked to speak on behalf of the board of trustees, Fredericksburg Independent School District Superintendent Marc Williamson left no doubt he believes the district is being proactive with efforts to address drug use by students.

After the recent overdose death of a Fredericksburg High School sophomore, some have questioned if the district’s drug testing and punishment policies were strong enough to deter use. But Williamson maintained that while the board will discuss the issue at its June 18 board retreat, the district has been ahead of the curve with anti-drug efforts.

“I am amazed that people think the board is just now discovering this issue,” he said. “Right now we test approximately 250 kids a year, and there are a little more than 600 kids in (extra-curricular) programs. With random testing, we will have some that are not tested, and some that are tested more than once. That’s the way it happens, and that’s the power of random testing.

“Eleven years ago, the board talked about this district not being immune to this issue,” Williamson said. “We spent a year researching back then when most people weren’t even thinking about it, and made the decision to begin drug testing. That was a bold step and we’ve been doing that for the last 10 years. Twenty-two miles south of here, and 22 miles west of here, they have not been doing testing because in some districts it’s a divisive issue.”

Williamson said the district began the use of drug dogs and a drug-education program because board members wanted to do as much as possible to address the issues.

“Slings and arrows come with my position, but I take exception with the implication that our policies are not applied with integrity or honesty,” he said. “Shame on a person that would just arbitrarily make that up.”

Williamson said he was encouraged to speak out on the issue because of “misconceptions and miscommunication out there.”

Board member Dave Campbell added that a lack of comment by board members does not signify a lack of concern. Williamson was asked to address the public by the board, he said.

One issue the board may address at its upcoming retreat is that of a closed campus, where students are not allowed to leave for lunch. Williams said this has proven controversial, yet successful in other districts.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but suggestions will not be based on misinformation or personal agendas,” Williamson said. “Several districts use us as a model because they feel like we’ve had a successful program.”

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