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From the Vault: News from the March 20, 1996 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 3/20/18

MASD adopts new drug-testing policy

Starting next school year, if you want to play sports at Middletown Area High School, you'll have to agree to be tested for drugs.

At its March 18 meeting, …

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From the Vault: News from the March 20, 1996 edition of the Press & Journal


MASD adopts new drug-testing policy

Starting next school year, if you want to play sports at Middletown Area High School, you'll have to agree to be tested for drugs.

At its March 18 meeting, the school board unanimously adopted a policy that calls for random drug testing of student athletes. The policy affects only high school athletes, Superintendent Gary Shank explained, adding that younger athletes will be considered later.

“We didn't want to encompass too many,” Shank explained. “We want to make sure we have our act together first.”

The district drafted the drug testing policy to take advantage of a June 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said such testing was constitutional, according to Shank. The administration, staff, coaches and the solicitor were all involved in writing the policy, Shank explained.

“We feel there's a need for this,” he said. “We have a concern about students using drugs and alcohol.”

According to the new policy, every member of every high school athletic team will have to sign a contract authorizing the district to do the testing. If a student refuses to take a test, that refusal will be treated as an offense, and he or she will not be able to play sports until agreeing to be tested and testing negative.

Those tested will submit a urine sample to be evaluated by a district-chosen laboratory. A sample that comes back positive for drugs will be retested. Parents will be notified of test results —both positive and negative — by the school principal, Shank explained.

Parents will not be told of testing ahead of time, he said. Samples will be checked for presence of marijuana, PCP, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and barbiturates, according to the policy. That list represents the most common drugs that are able to be tested for, Shank explained.

For a first offense, the policy calls for the student’s assessment with a certified drug and alcohol evaluator. If the student fails to comply with the evaluator’s recommendations, the student will be dismissed from the sport.

In addition, after one positive drug test, a student athlete will miss half of the sport’s contests, based on the full length of the regular season. For example, if there are 18 games in a softball season, the athlete would miss nine, regardless of when the drug test is administered. If 50 percent of the season is not remaining, the suspension will carry over to the next sport the student is involved in, whether that means the following season or next school year.

The suspension covers both games and practices, and students will not be able to play until they take and pass another drug test.

A second offense would bar a student from participating in sports for one calendar year and a third will prohibit participation for the rest of his or her time at the high school.

Drug detection will not result in suspension or expulsion since the actual use of the drug may not have occurred on school premises.

The district is looking at doing 75 to 100 tests per year throughout the three sport seasons.

The number of students tested from each sports team will be determined by percentage.

“We will try to test 25 to 30 students per season,” he said.

Testing will be done throughout each season, he explained, not as a “once-and-done” thing at the beginning of the year.

“The idea is to make sure student athletes realize drugs should not be used at all,” he said. The cost of testing is expected to be $35 to $40 per test, or roughly between $3,500 and $4,000 per school year, and will be paid by the district, Shank said.

Randomness will be determined by computer. The new athlete testing policy is to begin with the 1996-97 school year. As of now, the district is not planning on randomly testing those who participate in other school activities or the student population as a whole. Shank noted that the Supreme Court decision mentioned only student athletes.

“We feel [drug use] is far beyond student athletes. It is prevalent throughout society. But we are using this opportunity since the door is open,” he said.

It looks like Middletown is the first local district to take that opportunity.

“We have not talked about it here yet," Dr. Dale Williams, superintendent for the Elizabethtown Area School District, said about a random drug testing policy. That doesn't mean the district won't address it in the future, he noted. Likewise, Dr. Jeffrey Miller, superintendent for the Lower Dauphin School District, said there has been no talk of a policy.

Blue Raiders’ baseball success hinges on offense

For Middletown baseball coach Scott Pettis, the success of his 1996 Blue Raider squad will probably be determined by offense.

He’ll have decent pitching and defense, but team hitting and run production will be the key areas that will decide his team’s fate for the new season.

Although senior catcher Mike Dupes returns to the squad as one of the league’s top power hitters from a year ago, Pettis believes that, at least for now, the Raiders will have to rely on walks and aggressive base running to put numbers in the scorebook.

The loss of eight players to graduation last June plus the ineligibility of three players this spring has left some holes to fill for Pettis and his assistants. As a result, the coaches will work with a squad of many players with little or no varsity experience. But the hopefuls have been working hard and show a lot of promise.

The team, though, is not completely void of experienced veterans. Senior Bob Gallagher, who was elected team captain, returns for his third year as pitcher and will be the No. 1 hurler on the squad. He will also get some work at first base.

Fellow senior Marc Jackson, another third-year player, has moved to the starting shortstop position after playing two years at third base. He also brings pitching experience to the team and will be used mainly in a relief role.

Senior Neal Leggore, last year’s starter in right field, has moved to center, a spot that was occupied by the graduated Jack Weiss for three years.

Senior D.J. Keiser has stepped into the No. 2 spot in the pitching rotation and will also see action as a reliever. He will also get playing time at third base and as a designated hitter. Donnie Gipe, another senior, has been moved from the outfield to third base for this season and has looked impressive, according to Pettis. A veteran pitcher with varsity experience, Gipe will hold down the No. 3 spot on the pitching roster.

Senior Todd Schwanger, a JV player last season, has taken over the left field spot, and 12th-grader Josh Groome has been leading the way in right field. Groome will also get some time on the mound.

Seniors Mike Rhen and Alex Lawyer, as well as junior Gary Derk, add good depth to the outfield.

Rhen also did some pitching on the junior varsity level. Mark Marafka, the other senior on the squad, is getting time at first base and is also the team’s potential designated hitter. Four juniors and a sophomore round out this year’s roster and are working to earn a starting spot in the infield. Junior Casey Coble will back up Dupes behind the plate, while Matt Demey adds help at third base and to the pitching staff.

Joel Kostoff and Ray Schlee are battling for the open job at second base.

“One is a little better offensively and one is a little better defensively, but they’re close,” Pettis said.

Sophomore Jeff Martin has caught Pettis’ eye and can play first base or third as well as pitch.

Lower Dauphin, last year’s Division II champion, will again be heavily favored to repeat in 1996. “LD could be favored to win a state championship this year as well,” Pettis said.

He sees the rest of the league as a wide-open race.

“McDevitt finished second last year, but they have a new coach this year and it could affect them.”

Pettis also thinks that Palmyra and Hershey will be down this season. If that’s the case then the Blue Raiders should have as good a chance as anybody to finish near the top of the division. Pettis and assistants John Williams, Scott Crawford and Bob Gomboc will certainly do all they can to make that happen. The rest will be up to the players.

Third-graders found with ammo

Two third-graders of the Elizabethtown Area School District and their parents are “in major hot water” as school officials described it after the two were found in possession of ammunition while at school.

According to a brief report made to the EASD board of directors March 12 by Superintendent Dale E. Williams, a teacher found one of the pupils with a shotgun shell, the other with two handgun bullets.

The children, Williams said, were apparently swapping information or possibly swapping their ammunition when the teacher caught them. As a result, the third-graders were placed on in-school suspension, meaning they come to school, but do work in isolation instead of with their class.

Headlines from the edition

• Gekas shares history at Londonderry Elementary

• Smink, Stehling wed in Texas

• LD budget unveiled; $500,000 high-tech plan also revealed

Hot buys

• “Grumpier Old Men,” Elks Theatre, Emaus and Union streets, Middletown. Matinee Saturday, 2 p.m., all seats $1.

• Friday at Fox’s featuring roast beef sandwich, only $2.99. Fox’s, 101 S. Union St, Middletown.

• Breyer’s ice cream, $3.88 a half gallon. Giant, Middletown.