Beginning next spring, all of Denison Independent School District's athletes will be tested for drug use, but district officials stressed that the purpose of the policy is not punitive.

Beginning next spring, all of Denison Independent School District’s athletes will be tested for drug use, but district officials stressed that the purpose of the policy is not punitive.

“We want to give (students) a reason to say no to the peer pressure that they face on a daily basis,” Assistant Superintendent George Hatfield said to the board on Tuesday. The board voted unanimously — with Vice President Bruce Hysmith and member Doug Holzbog absent — to approve the policy.

The policy will require all 7th through 12th grade athletes and cheerleaders and their parents to consent to testing before the students can participate in the activities. Initially everyone in the programs will be tested. Then 7th grade, 9th grade, and all new athletes must take an initial drug test. Additionally, every six weeks, a random group of students, between 5 and 20 percent, will be tested. Once a student tests positive, that student will be tested every six weeks for a year.

Additionally, the coaches have some control over who is a part of that sample. The policy states if a coach has reasonable belief that a student might be using drugs the coach can include that student in the next round of testing.

The first positive test means that student must complete the STAR drug treatment program. The second positive test means the student must complete the next phase of the program and will be ineligible to participate in athletics for 14 days. On the third positive test, the student must complete the third phase and will be ineligible for 60 days. Finally, on the four positive test, a student will be banded from participating.

Hatfield, pointed to the consequences, as well as the fact that the district is waiting until next spring to institute the policy, as evidence of it’s intent to help students avoid peer pressure rather than punish them.

“I want every tool at my disposal that I can use to keep them away from that stuff,” said Athletic Director Cody White. “It’s an opportunity for them to say no. It’s an opportunity for them to stay away from peer pressure.”

Testing is expected to cost the district $13,000 for the first year and then slightly less in later years since fewer students will be tested. The athletic booster club has agreed to pay $3,000 toward the total cost.

If parents what their children who are not in athletics tested, they can pay $15, the cost of the test. Hatfield said the district will conduct meetings with parents about the program to answer questions and address concerns.

The board also approved the guaranteed maximum price of $9,542,304 for construction at Hyde Park, Lamar and Mayes elementary schools. The price comes in $700 under budget, but represents only the maximum and could be less if continued negotiations are successful. The bids represent a local participation of about 44 percent.

Finally, following a closed, executive session, the board voted to authorize its attorney and administrative staff to pursue negotiations regarding a wrongful dismissal claim brought against the district.

Superintendent Henry Scott said he couldn’t discuss the details since negotiations were on-going, but said any settlement would be paid by the district’s liability insurance company and would need additional approval from the board before it can be finalized.

In other business, the board approved:

• accepting $14,372 in grants from the Denison Education Foundation;

• accepting a clean 2010-2011 district audit;

• the 2012-2013 budget calendar;

• the taxation of goods in transit; and

• Davis-Bacon wage rates for Hyde Park, Lamar and Mayes elementary additions and renovations.