By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune
---- — Randomized drug testing for students in grades six to 12 was approved by the West Central School Board July 11.
The program will be mandatory for West Central School Corporation students who are in athletics, driver education, extracurricular activities, curriculum-related activities or drive a motorized vehicle to school, the drug testing policy states.
Although other local schools have randomized drug testing, it is rare to have them at that age level, according to Kathy Coffing, addictions counselor at Four County Counseling Center. She called it preventative.
“Kudos to them,” Coffing said. “They’re setting a precedent. I think they’ll be surprised by the results.”
Testing will begin in September and eight to 12 students will be tested per month during the school year, according to Charles Mellon, West Central School Corporation superintendent. The tests can cost $22 to $25 per test, which is upwards of $2,800 to $3,000 a year, Mellon said.
They are hoping to get a grant through Pulaski County Drug Free Council.
“Basically, by implementing the program, we are probably catching up with the rest of the athletic conference schools,” Mellon said. “We were one of the last schools in the conference to approve a policy.”
Although they don’t have a contract yet, they will probably use Indiana Testing for the drug tests, he said. Indiana Testing is already connected with the school corporation through a contract they have to perform drug, alcohol testing on corporation bus drivers.
If Indiana Testing is used, the company will assign numbers to students so the process is confidential, Mellon said.
If a student fails the test, there will be various punishments depending on the situation and offense. The school’s drug testing policy, including punishments, will be added to the school’s website soon, Mellon said. Some of the punishments include going to counseling.
The biggest battle is to get schools to understand students need to follow through with treatment, Coffing said.
“It (the policy) will cover pretty much everyone,” Mellon said. “At least 80 percent of the student population, if not more.”
The test will include a urine analysis, which will be monitored to a certain extent, he said. There is a policy in place for a test being tampered. Students will be able to ask for a retest and parents will also be able to request that their children be tested for drugs.
Mellon hopes it’s more of an education process, not a learning experience. “I hope students don’t have to learn the hard way,” he said.
“Saying ‘don’t do drugs’ doesn’t work,” Coffing said. “What the school is doing is very proactive. I’m glad to hear it and hope the idea snowballs down to other schools.”
If anyone has questions after reading through the school’s policy, they can call the school, Mellon said.
Students will begin school Aug. 14, a few weeks before the drug testing begins in September.