Voluntary drug testing program to start next year

A new drug testing program that will begin next year was approved by the School Board on Tuesday, Dec. 8 by unanimous vote.

The new program allows students to fill out a form and, with parent approval, choose whether or not to be put in a pool of possible candidates for random drug testing at any time throughout the year.

The goal of this program is to “help students make good choices and help families work together to help prevent drug abuse,” chief academic officer Babette Decou said.

The new drug testing form will be included with student registration forms from sixth to 12th grade. The testing itself is voluntary and, provided a student has parent approval, they may choose not be placed in the pool of names for random testing. A student  may “opt out” of the test even if they enrolled in the program should their name be selected from the pool.

The three key points of this program are that “it’s voluntary, it’s confidential, and  it’s free,” Director of Students Paul Press said. “The program is… a positive tool for kids to use to resist the temptation or the peer pressure to experiment with drugs…this is not a ‘getcha’ program,” Press said.

Students who turn in an application indicating they will participate in the program will be put into a pool of possible candidates for drug testing. There will be random selections throughout the year. When asked how many students would be tested per month, Press said there would be a specific percentage of the number of students in the pool at each site tested each month, but that he could not disclose precisely how many.

If selected for testing, a student would be called to the office, where they would be asked to provide a urine sample. “We do not follow students into the bathroom,” Press said.

“If a student says ‘No, I’m not giving a sample,’ we don’t pressure them,” Press said. However, should a student decline, their parents would be notified by both email and the postal service that they were selected for a test and opted out.

The student’s parents will also receive both an email and postal notification that their child has taken a test before the results come back.The parent of middle school students will receive notification before the test “because of the sensitivity of that age,” Press said.

After a student turns in their sample, it will be sent to a 12-panel  processing system, which detects everything from marijuana to prescription drugs.

Should the results come out positive, the sample will be sent to another lab to double check the results “to ensure there are not false positives sent to parents,” Press said. Once the results have been confirmed positive or negative, the parents of the tested students will receive a postal and email copy of the results, which will say whether or not the test was positive or negative, and if it was positive, what drugs were found. Positive results will also come with a “resource list” for parents to use.

The results are also extremely confidential and will not go on any sort of record, nor will they affect students’ ability to participate in athletics, drama, band, etc. “If a positive result comes in…it’s confidential…we will not put anything in our student’s information system. The student will not be penalized…If parents come to us for support, there will be no consequences for students,” Press said. The only form of the data the district receives is a summary of data at the end of the year which does not disclose names.

The program will only have a “minimal” cost to the district, and will be completely free for students to participate, Press said. However how students will feel about the program remains to be seen. Sophomore Nicolas Sardegna expressed his concerns that the program might not have enough participants to be effective, would be a poor use of district time and resources, and would be “a waste of urine.”

PRJUSD administration, however, are generally pleased with the program. “I think [the program] is fabulous…I absolutely support this program” School Board President Field Gibson said.

Students may sign up from the program now, and be placed in a pool of candidates for initial testing in April, and the application will be included in all registration packets next year. Drug testing is right around the corner.

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