After lengthy discussion about the Gatesville Independent School District's substance abuse policy in April, the GISD Board of Trustees approved a few changes to the policy with little discussion on May 16.

"The biggest contention was a proposal to go from three strikes to four," Superintendent Barrett Pollard said. He added that staff members discussed that and agreed to recommend staying with the three-strike format.

Under the previous policy, students who tested positive for drugs (or refused to test or were caught tampering with the test) were suspended from 40% of extracurricular activities with the first strike, were given a one-year suspension with the second strike and were permanently banned from extracurricular activities upon receiving strike three.

The new system will result in a 30% suspension for strike one, 50% suspension for the current or upcoming season for strike two, and a permanent ban for strike three.

A memorandum to the board notes that those violating the policy will now be required to complete a physical regimen, perform community service hours, will be assigned a mentor and will have intervention by social workers in order to continue participating in extracurricular activities. Students must also pass a drug test before returning to competition.

"During the suspension, a student cannot represent GISD in any capacity," the memorandum stated. Previously, a self-admission would take strike one from 40% (suspension) to 20%. “We are deleting that caveat because students were not ‘self-admitting’ until they were caught."

Board member Calvin Ford said when he expressed concerns at the April meeting, "I wasn't wanting four strikes. The kids need help and it's important that they work with social workers, Righteous Roots (a local advocacy group) and mentors. I felt that one year (suspension) was way too long, and (students violating the substance abuse policy) need help."

He said he likes the way various avenues to assistance are now provided to students as part of the policy.