An 18-year-old Southeastern High School senior will not be allowed to participate in graduation or prom activities after she tested positive for nicotine on a random drug test.
Southeastern requires students to consent to random drug testing for alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs and nicotine to participate in sports, extracurricular activities or parking on school property. At the start of the year, students planning to participate in those activities sign a consent form that they will participate and follow the school’s athletic handbook. The athletic handbook and the board policy both address tobacco use; the student handbook only addresses tobacco use for minors and on school grounds.
Eleni Lindsey said she signed the form so she could be on the school bowling team in the fall but that she didn’t believe the drug testing included consequences for 18-year-olds legally using tobacco.
“It’s unfair because I am legally allowed to smoke,” she said. “They can’t really say anything about that because I am 18 years old, about to be 19.”
Age is not a factor in the school’s drug testing policy, said Superintendent David Shea.
“If any student has a drug test come back positive for whatever’s on the list of banned substances … you lose your parking privileges at the school and you’re not allowed to attend any extracurricular activities for 30 days on the first positive,” he said.
This is Lindsey’s first year in the district. She moved from Michigan to live with her grandparents. Her old school did not drug test.
Random drug tests for students in extra activities is the only way public schools can legally drug test because courts have ruled those activities are optional.
Locally, Northeastern and Southeastern have random drug testing programs. Northeastern’s only includes student athletes and does test for nicotine. An 18-year-old student would face the same consequences for a positive result for nicotine as a minor, said Kenton Ridge High School Athletic Director Kris Spriggs.
“Even though the law is 18, the board has decided that for health and safety reasons, they’re trying to deter students from using tobacco,” said Shea. “I think that was the genesis of it.”
Lindsey acknowledged that she might be able to participate in graduation ceremonies if she quit smoking and passed subsequent tests, but she does not think she should have to quit. Her mother, who lives in Michigan, planned to visit for her graduation.
“It’s just something that I always wanted to do, and my mom wants to see me walk,” she said. “Honestly, it’s more about my mother seeing me walk.”