When 90 percent of parents surveyed agree that drugs are a problem in the community, it’s time to address it.

That’s where at least one Wyoming school board finds itself. The board, wrestling with what the sheriff calls an uptick in drug use in Worland and Washakie County, is considering randomly drug testing students who participate in extracurricular activities.

We like the proposal because of its emphasis on intervention, not punishment. This is the stage of life where kids are likely to experiment or make bad decisions. Legal action isn’t the solution here.

But we this is also the stage of life where students should be learning to take responsibility for their actions. We encourage the board to set consequences that don’t involve legal punishment but are weighty enough to register with students if policies aren’t followed. Students should have to acknowledge that participation in a sport or other school activity is a privilege and that there are responsibilities that come along with that. If they are found to be using illegal drugs, they should not miss school – but officials should consider docking competition time or practice time.

Fremont County School District 6, which includes Wind River High School, has a similar policy. There, students found to be using drugs and alcohol are suspended from the activity for 30 days and must attend counseling sessions. Schools in Goshen and Campbell counties also have testing programs in place.

Such measures can be a valuable part of a larger prevention effort. Washakie County Sheriff Steve Rakness said officers are seeing problems with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, prescription drug abuse and huffing. Worland police Chief Gabe Elliott also noted that policing is getting more complicated with Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The drug doesn’t always look the same as it once did, he said.

It’s tough for school officials and parents, too. Activities director Bruce Smith said 83 percent of parents surveyed would support a testing program. Under the proposal the board is studying, parents could choose to include their student in the program even when their activity is not in season.

This is a critical time for these young people. We should do what we can to help them learn to make healthy decisions that will shape how they live the rest of their lives. An intervention-focused program such as this could be part of that solution.


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