Concerned parents and administrators have formed a committee to try to curb drug and alcohol use among athletes at Ashland High School, the superintendent announced last week.

Concerned parents and administrators have formed a committee to try to curb drug and alcohol use among athletes at Ashland High School, the superintendent announced on May 10.

Students sometimes use drugs and alcohol before games, putting them at greater risk for injuries, especially in contact sports such as football, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said.

"There's a drug and alcohol problem in Ashland among our students and the athletes are no different," she said. "This is something that we continue to not be successful in making those percentages go down. It's a real dilemma."

The committee meets at 4 p.m. on Thursdays in the high school's new gym auxiliary classroom. The meetings are open to the public.

Karl Kemper, the district's athletic director, and Samuel Bogdanove, director of student services, are working to bring in guest speakers to educate parents.

The committee is trying to determine what steps the high school should take to discourage drug and alcohol use. Several of the parents are pushing the athletic department to have a new drug and alcohol policy in place by the fall, Di Chiro said.

"We may or may not meet that goal," she said. "I think we need to take the time to do a good job."

All student athletes are required to sign a form stating that they will not use drugs or alcohol during the season, Di Chiro said. However, some students disregard the contract, because they think they can avoid getting caught, she said.

"Even though they all sign this pledge, our ability to enforce this contract and pledge is limited," she said. "We need to look at what deterrents we have in place and how can we strengthen them."

Last fall, football coach Charlie Hall asked the School Board to allow him to perform voluntary, random drug tests on his team every week in the hopes of curbing marijuana and alcohol use among players.

The board voted 5-0 in September to table the matter because it was concerned about the confidentiality and accuracy of the test results. Board members also said the district needed to work with students to change the culture of the school rather than impose a testing program.

The district decided to form a committee to study the matter, because many parents are worried about the high rate of drug and alcohol use at the high school, Di Chiro said.

"In meeting with parents at the high school, particularly parents of athletes, we learned that they continue to have concerns in this area," she said. "Some parents still have strong interest in pursuing random drug testing."

Hall sought the drug testing after two players were caught with drugs off campus last summer, before the season started. He gave the players a two-game suspension. If they had been caught on campus, they would have been suspended from one-third of the season — which would have hurt the entire team, Hall said.

A state survey released in October showed alcohol and marijuana use increased among Ashland High School students in the previous two years.

The Oregon Healthy Teens Survey revealed that a higher percentage of Ashland middle and high school students use alcohol and marijuana than students do statewide.

The survey was administered in spring 2009 to eighth- and 11th-grade students, who answered anonymously.

According to the data, 49 percent of Ashland 11th-grade students had used alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 38 percent statewide. About 40 percent had used marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to 22 percent statewide.

The district has already taken many steps to try to reduce student drug and alcohol use, including providing community support and reaching out to parents, Di Chiro said.

"What the research tells us we should be doing for kids — we're doing all of those things," she said. "This really isn't an Ashland High School problem. This is a problem that young people in the community have."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.