In a close vote, the Ashland School Board on Monday approved a stricter drug and alcohol policy for athletes at Ashland High School that includes mandatory meetings for parents and voluntary drug testing for students.

In a close vote, the Ashland School Board on Monday approved a stricter drug and alcohol policy for athletes at Ashland High School that includes mandatory meetings for parents and voluntary drug testing for students.

The board voted 3-2 to approve the new policy, drafted by a committee of parents, coaches and district officials.

The policy will go into effect this fall, but some parts of the program, such as an improved way for students to refer their classmates for potential drug and alcohol counseling, may not be implemented until winter, district officials said. Other parts of the policy, including the drug testing and a drug-and-alcohol-free club, will be available to students if they want to participate but will not be mandatory.

Board Vice Chairwoman Heidi Parker and board member Ruth Alexander voted against the policy because they were concerned the referral system and drug testing could be abused or could violate students' rights.

"We are legally responsible," Parker said. "I think we should choose which areas to implement."

The new policy will bring greater attention to a pledge card all athletes and parents must sign, stating they will abide by the school's drug and alcohol policy. Parents must pledge not to allow students to use drugs, including tobacco, in their homes.

The new policy includes seven items: the parent and athlete education night, the pledge card, the drug-and-alcohol-free club, informational panels for athletes, the promotion of drug-free social activities, increased classroom instruction on making healthy choices and the student referral system.

The board voted to approve all but the last item Monday. Board members plan to review and clarify language regarding the referral system at a future meeting.

Students who join the drug-and-alcohol-free club will be able to sign up for drug testing, funded by community donations. Club members who stay drug and alcohol free will be given discount cards for local businesses.

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.

— Hannah Guzik