Lake Travis ISD officials revisit the discussion on the district’s drug testing program

Gordon Butler, Lake Travis High School principal, spoke on the district's drug testing program during a Jan. 15 meeting (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)
Gordon Butler, Lake Travis High School principal, spoke on the district's drug testing program during a Jan. 15 meeting (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)

Gordon Butler, Lake Travis High School principal, spoke on the district's drug testing program during a Jan. 15 meeting (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact)

The board of trustees continued the discussion Jan. 15 on Lake Travis ISD’s randomized drug testing program in its second year of implementation.

An update on the program was previously presented during a Nov. 21 board meeting, showing one positive result districtwide during the test’s first administration. The district implements the tests in six administrations, testing 7% of the population or about 170 students at the high school level at a time.

Multiple questions arose in the November meeting regarding the ability to test students who were not present during the testing day, the possibility of adding a nicotine test and the ability to test every athlete or similar subgroup once per season.

After further researching these concerns, Superintendent Brad Lancaster led a discussion Jan. 15 to revisit these questions. He confirmed that the district would have the ability to test a student a few days after the initial administration if that student missed the test but was present during the school day’s first period.

The current plan, he said, is to wait until the next scheduled administration to test those absent students; however, board members shared the concern that students are finding ways to avoid the test. The district determined that around five students were missing the testing administration after being present during first period, according to Elizabeth Deterra, assistant superintendent of learning and teaching services.

The board also discussed the possibilities of testing for vaping, nicotine and associated chemicals. LTISD utilizes the drug testing company Southwest Consortium, a certified testing company capable of testing for nicotine through urine samples.

Lancaster confirmed that while the district can test for nicotine, there is no federally certified test for vaping. The test would not be able to distinguish whether the nicotine was ingested through a vape pen, a cigarette or another tobacco product.

The addition of nicotine tests would increase the program’s total cost from $28,080 to $34,320 if tests were to be administered at the current rate.

“The $6,200 is not cost-prohibitive. What we’ll see is an increase in students being penalized,” Lancaster said, going on to ask, "Do we punish children for an addiction as opposed to a misbehavior?”

Trustee Bob Dorsett made the suggestion that the penalty for testing positive for nicotine could be as simple as calling the student’s parent or guardian.

Lancaster reiterated that he would advise the board not to signal out a specific group, such as athletes or band members, for testing, saying that he believed doing so would be a liability for the district.

“Nothing in the results we’ve had all last year indicates that our athletes are testing positive any more than any other group; in fact, they’re testing lower,” Lancaster said

The board also considered increasing the number of administrations while decreasing the amount of students tested each time. This would result in greater visibility for the program, further giving students the ability and reason to say no to illicit substances.

Gordon Butler, principal of Lake Travis High School, said this method would be a possibility if approved, calling the tapered administration schedule a happy medium. He added that as long as the district decreased the number of students tested each time, increasing the administrations would not pose a problem.

Any changes to the drug testing program would not go into effect until August, and no formal decisions were made during the Jan. 15 meeting.

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


Austin, Travis County and Austin ISD officials gathered Sept. 24 to discuss local resilience planning. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin, Travis County, AISD look to build collaboration on community disaster hubs

The governments and school district are looking to grow a network of facilities that can provide resources to residents amid weather emergencies.

Screen shot of Desmar Walkes speaking at a press conference
Austin Public Health eyes possible shift to Stage 4 guidelines

Local health leaders said they want to see the current downward trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations persist before making any changes.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said Sept. 23 though the district has been awarded emergency funding, it has only had access to a fraction of it. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD superintendent lays out barriers to receiving emergency funding

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said while it seems that the district has received "millions and millions," it has been able to use a fraction of granted emergency funds.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; former Round Rock Steak N' Shake to become Whataburger and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Kevin Foster, an Austin ISD board trustee, alerted the board Sept. 23 to his concern about a police response at LBJ Early College High School last week. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD trustee questions police response after hoax 911 call

After a large police response to a falsely reported school shooting last week, one member of the Austin ISD board of trustees is concerned about police scaring students.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.

Flights between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and London-Heathrow will resume Oct. 13 for the first time in 17 months. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
British Airways to resume service from Austin to London in October

The flights will run three days per week and include COVID-19 safety measures for passengers.

The Austin metropolitan statistical area surpasses COVID-19 pandemic job losses. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin regains all pandemic job loss, San Antonio nearly misses top 10 best performing metros in the country

The Austin and San Antonio metropolitan statistical areas continue their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major League PIckleball
New pickleball league launches with inaugural tournament in Dripping Springs

A new pickleball league based in Austin is launching its inaugural season with a tournament in Dripping Springs later this fall.