Super: 'We're Losing Kids' to Lacey's Drug Problem
The school district is considering implementing a random drug testing program in 2013 for high school students in extracurricular activities and those with a parking pass
Approximately 67 percent of high school students participate in athletic activities, all who could potentially be subjected to a random drug test in the fall of 2013.
Twenty-five parents and school employees participated in a community forum Tuesday night on a random drug testing program that the district is considering implementing. The purpose of the meeting was to generate questions the administration will answer in a fact sheet posted on the district website.
“We have a drug problem,” Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower said. “Random drug testing is happening here in New Jersey and it is generally used as a deterrent."
Random drug testing is also used for the “spillover effect,” meaning students understand and know that they will be a part of a program, discouraging them from getting involved in drug use, Brower said.
“Anyone who is using, is abusing,” Brower said. “We have kids who are using.”
Lacey students are using everything from heroin and marijuana to steroids and alcohol, she said.
The random drug-testing program will not be a “magic wand,” Brower said, and the district intends on exploring a multi-pronged approach.
Only in the beginning stages, the district is exploring implementing a random drug testing program for high school students involved in extracurricular activities and those who hold a parking pass.
Legally, the district can only drug test students in extracurricular activities and those with a parking pass because those programs are a “privilege,” Brower said.
The program would be funded by the school district, which will also look into available grants, District Nursing Coordinator Anita Hergert said.
Urine testing is more cost effective than other testing methods but still accurate, she said. The test would detect numerous drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, PCP, oxycodone and more. Steroids would be an extra test at an additional cost.
Currently, student athletes, along with their parents, sign a paper agreeing that drugs are prohibited and can be tested if there is suspicion, Athletic Director Karen Hughes said.
The district can also test any student with reasonable suspicion.
Data shows that random drug testing is a positive deterrent to drug use, Brower said.
“We have a problem. We have kids that are using drugs that are involved in activities that you would never know are using drugs,” she said.
The perception that students who are underachievers are more likely to use drugs is inaccurate, she said.
“Kids who have the highest IQ and are the highest achievers are using drugs and they’re smart enough to navigate the system,” she said. “[Drug testing] is another opportunity for us to identify kids who need help.”
A random drug-testing program could interfere with the role of parents, resident Gary Vaccaro said.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure I’m for random drug testing. Part of my feeling is parents have responsibility for their own kids,” he said. “I feel strongly about that. If I want to drug test my kid, it should be my responsibility.”
The district has the responsibility and resources as well, Brower said.
“We know it’s affecting our kids. We’re losing kids. We’re not losing them to drop out, they’re dying and you’re not going to know they’re dying because the police aren’t going to tell you that was an overdose,” Brower said.
Vaccaro questioned what the consequences would be if a student tested positive.
“You can have a kid who is a great student, one time went to a party, made a dumb mistake and that’s going to follow them for the rest of their days, into college, because the kid made a dumb mistake,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s getting at the kids who are continual users without having reasonable suspicion testing.”
In the district’s research, the majority of schools that have a random drug-testing program do not record a positive drug test in a permanent record, Brower said. Consequences would not be punitive.
Students who test positive would undergo some type of counseling program, she said.
“One of the questions that’s going to be asked is what about school staff?” resident Bill Moss said.
“Our students are our first priority. We’ll have to look into that. There’s contracts, there’s unions, there’s laws,” Brower said. “But honestly, this is about our students and we care about our students. We’re concerned about our students.”
Although a policy has not yet been adopted, the Board of Education has shown interest in implementing a program, Brower said.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled random drug testing programs constitutional. Since then more than 1,000 schools have implemented them, according to a New York Times article.
Over the past five years, teen drug use has declined 23 percent, with 840,000 fewer students using illegal drugs today than in 2001, the article said.
Brick Township has a longstanding program, Brower said, as well as Hunterdon Central Regional and Hillsborough. Brower believes those districts would credit a decrease in suspensions, dropouts and student drug use to their random drug testing policies.
“We’re no different than any other town, or county or state,” Substance Abuse Counselor Thomas Faulkner said. “Every town — Bayville, Barnegat, Manahawkin — they have issues just like we do. We’re no better. We’re no worse. But we have the problem and we have to do something about it.”
Just that the district is discussing a possible random drug testing program is “very good” as it raises awareness, Municipal Alliance Coordinator Heather Scanlon said.
“Whatever decision is made, I think we’re happy to have this dialogue,” Scanlon said. “Early intervention is really key here.”
Additional meetings on the random drug-testing program will be held in the future, eventually leading up to a presentation to the community.
Return to Lacey Patch as this story develops and when the fact sheet is released.