Q&A: School District Provides Answers on Random Drug Testing Program
The second community forum on the program will be held Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the high school media center
After the school district's first community forum on its potential random drug testing program, a Q&A was developed to provide information for unanswered questions.
School employees, parents and members of the community met on Jan. 8 at the Lacey High School Media Center to discuss questions. The answers are grouped by topics below.
A second community forum on the program will be held Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Media Center.
Those who attended the meeting are now a part of the district's Committee on the random drug testing program.
Members of the Committee include:
- James Handschuch, Principal
- Karen Hughes, Athletic Director
- Pat Crocker, HS School Nurse
- Anita Hergert, District Nursing Coordinator
- Michael Maschi, Director of Special Services
- Robyn White, Teacher, Coach, Advisor
- Robert Dougherty, Teacher, Coach, Advisor
- Tyler Burt, Student
- Alexis Apostolos, Student
- Tom Faulkner, Student Assistance Counselor
- Kelly Brown, Student Assistance Counselor
- Vanessa Clark, Assistant Superintendent
- Sandra Brower, Superintendent
Random Drug Testing Program Participants
Q: Why is the school district only looking to test a particular group of students?
A: Public school districts in New Jersey are not permitted to randomly drug test all of their students; however, school districts can randomly drug test students involved in voluntary programs as per 6A:16- 4.4 Voluntary policy for random testing of student alcohol or other drug use.
There is a provision that allows parents and students to opt-in if they are not involved in a voluntary or privileged program such as extracurricular activities, athletic programs, and those students who hold a parking privilege.
Q: What is an "extracurricular" activity?
A: Extracurricular activities include all clubs, teams and athletic programs.
Q: What if the student and/or parent refuse to participate?
A: Any student who does not submit a signed consent form will not be eligible to participate in any extracurricular and/or athletic programs and will not be eligible for a parking pass.
A student that has previously submitted a signed consent form and refuses to be tested or deliberately avoids testing would be deemed as having a positive test result.
Q: What is our current drug testing policy?
A: Lacey Township School District’s current drug/alcohol policy is suspicion based only:
If a staff member suspects that a student may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he/she shall immediately report the matter to the principal. The school nurse is also immediately notified and renders emergency care as needed. The principal will then notify the parent or guardian to take the student for an immediate medical examination and urinalysis by a licensed physician. If the medical examination verifies that the student is not under the influence, the student may return to school immediately and attend regularly while waiting for the results of the urinalysis. If the student tests positive for drugs or alcohol, the student may be suspended for up to 10 days and may attend the Student Assistance Intervention Program (SAIP). A student may not return to school until they produce a clean urine screen.
Q: Does the district drug test students in earlier grade levels?
A: For the purposes of random drug testing, at this time, the policy will only apply to students in grades 9 through 12. The district does have a suspicion based testing program as outlined above which applies to all enrolled students.
Q: What is the role of Substance Abuse Counselor?
A: Substance Awareness Counselors/Coordinators (SAC) are currently providing ongoing individual and group counseling services regarding substance abuse issues to the students of Lacey Township High School. Students are also receiving counseling support from the Substance Awareness Counselors due to their feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, suicidal thoughts and a variety of other social and emotional issues that may threaten the well-being of all students, their families and the community.
In addition, Substance Awareness Counselors assist with in-service training of school district staff concerning substance abuse issues and the district program to combat substance abuse; serve as an information resource for substance curriculum development and instruction; assist the district in revising and implementing substance abuse policies and procedures and to develop and administer intervention services in the district.
Q: What is our current substance abuse curriculum?
A: Drug prevention including the use of alcohol, and other harmful substances are currently addressed within our district’s health curriculum. The district includes all of the NJ Core Curriculum Standards for Comprehensive Health in grades pre-k-12. The curriculum includes lessons on: wellness, social emotional health, decision-making, medicines, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, dependency, addiction and treatment.
The Random Testing Program
Q: How accurate are the drug tests?
A: A urine drug test is 92-98% accurate. If the sample is positive, it is re-tested using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, which is 100% accurate.
Q: What drugs will the district be testing for?
A: Typically testing companies include a battery of tests including all illicit or banned substances including: Alcohol, Amphetamines, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines (Valium), Cocaine, Ecstasy, MTD (Methadone), Marijuana, Opioids (Codeine), Oxycodone, PCP, Methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstacy), Phencyclidine (PCP), Propoxyphene (Darvon), Steroids and Synthetic THC (Spice).
Q: What is sample size of students to be tested?
A: Typically, a random sample size ranges from 2-10% taken twice a month.
Q: What is the timeline from when a student's number is chosen to notification, to collection, to testing?
A: The procedure for random drug testing of students will be done with an independent drug testing vendor approved by the Board of Education. The vendor randomly selects students participating in the program for testing at regular intervals throughout the school year.
On the day prior to the test day, the vendor will generate a list of students from the group of eligible participants. The Assistant Principal will be responsible for verifying consent forms and escorting the student to the Health Office for urine collection.
By courier, the vendor will arrange for the specimens to be sent to the medical lab. Parents are only notified of positive results. It takes approximately 48 hours for a positive test to be verified. A Medical Resource Officer from the testing vendor will always notify the parent first if the test is positive.
Q: What happens when a student tests positive?
A: If a selected student tests positive for an illegal substance, the district committee is recommending that no punitive measures take place at the first level of a positive test. The parent and student will be notified that a positive result was obtained. The student will then be required to complete a series of private counseling sessions with the Substance Awareness Counselor. The committee is currently exploring a three- tier approach of intervention.
Q: Define punitive measures vs. counseling services?
A: Punitive measures are actions that punish. We want to help our students, not punish them. Counseling services are supportive. They are private, confidential sessions with a Student Assistance Counselor that are designed and intended to help a student with any issues concerning substance abuse.
Q: Is the parent notified before testing?
A: No, but a call can be made upon parent request to the principal to contact a parent/guardian if their child was selected.
Q: Who else will be notified of a positive test?
A: The parent/guardian is notified first. Others who will be notified include the: student, principal and/or designee, the coach/advisor, and the Student Assistant Counselor.
Q: How will student refusal be dealt with?
A: Student refusal would fall in violation of the Random Drug Testing Policy and would result as a positive test. The student would be required to meet with the Substance Awareness Counselor, and participate in a drug prevention/education program. The student would fall under the same guidelines for a first tier positive drug test.
Q: What role does local law enforcement have with school programs?
A: Law enforcement will not play any role in the random drug testing program.
Q: Is there an appeals process?
A: A parent wanting to challenge a positive drug test may call the Medical Review Officer and request that the split portion of the sample be sent to another lab for reconfirmation. The request must be made in writing within 5 days of notification and will be at the cost of the parent. The initial ruling will remain in effect until proven otherwise by the reconfirmation.
Q: Should there be a second confirmation on a positive test result?
A: There is a two-step process where the sample is divided and a portion is tested using enzyme immunoassay technology which is simple, inexpensive and accurate. If the results of that test are positive, then a second test on a portion of the remaining specimen is conducted using chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). Only if both portions of the divided specimen show up positive is it considered a positive result. The accuracy of the GC/MS confirmatory test is virtually
100% from a scientific standpoint so a second confirmation is already done on every positive test.
Q: Who pays for the expense?
A: The district would pay for the random drug testing program. The parent would only pay for costs associated with a parent’s request for a re-test should the test come back positive.
Q: Why does the district feel that a random drug testing program is necessary?
A: The district recognizes that students in Lacey may be exposed to illegal drugs at one time or another during their high school career. We want to be part of the solution to keep our students drug free. For those students who need a reason to say no, this program will provide that reason. For those who need help because they did not say no to drugs, the district will provide the support and guidance needed. There is a drug problem in our community given the ease of accessibility of drugs and alcohol. We are committed to provide yet another option to deter and detect drug use. The Lacey Township School District is committed to the safety and wellness of our school community and will look to explore any opportunity to better serve our students. The program is designed to deter drug and alcohol abuse and to provide a means for early detection so that assistance may be offered and treatment supported.