KEEPING OUR STUDENTS SUBSTANCE-FREE
As Catholic schools focused on the education and welfare of the whole person, Gilmour Academy, St. Edward High School and Saint Ignatius High School have jointly launched a wellness initiative that will focus on keeping students well and drug-free through a combination of education, testing and support.
The schools have retained the services of Psychemedics Corporation of Boston to conduct periodic drug assessment of students (grades 9-12), using a non-invasive hair-sampling procedure. The process of sampling will begin in the fall of 2014, with periodic random sampling continuing throughout the school year.
The schools decided to initiate drug testing out of a deep concern for the health and well-being of students. Substance abuse often begins with casual drug and alcohol use during the teen years. Helping our students make good choices will save them from long-term problems related to abuse and addiction.
Even though there is no evidence of widespread substance abuse among our student body, even one student at risk is one too many. We want to do everything we can to keep our students well and safe.
Certainty of detection will give our students a reason to fight peer pressure, to say “NO,” because “my school tests and I will get caught.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why did you decide to initiate drug testing?
We started this program out of a deep concern for the health and well-being of our students. The primary purpose for this initiative is to give students another reason to say “no” to the pressures of using illegal drugs and to help them remain substance-free. This initiative is simply one more component in our student wellness efforts.
Why hair testing?
Testing a hair sample for drugs offers significantly greater detection ability than other methods of analyzing body fluids such as urine or saliva. Many drugs are undetectable in urine as soon as 72 hours after use, whereas they can be detected in hair samples for several months after ingestion. In addition, it is much more difficult to adulterate or substitute hair samples and collection is much less intrusive, as well as more cost effective.
What drugs can be detected by hair testing?
Cocaine, marijuana, opiates (including heroin, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone), methamphetamines, ecstasy (MDMA), Eve (MDEA) and phencyclidine (PCP) can all be detected. A standard test of 1½ inches of head hair cut close to the scalp can provide a several-month window to detect drug ingestion.
Who will conduct the testing?
We have retained the services of Psychemedics Corporation of Boston, the world’s largest provider of hair testing for the detection of drugs of abuse. Psychemedics has been conducting drug testing since 1987 and has conducted testing for hundreds of schools and colleges. In addition to educational institutions, its patented process is used by Fortune 500 companies, major police departments and other public entities. More information is available at www.psychemedics.com or www.schooldrugtesting.com.
Who will have access to the screening results? Will they appear on a student’s permanent record?
No. No records or reports will be provided to colleges or anyone else, for that matter. Each school will designate a very limited number of staff members who will have access and custody of the drug-testing records, and will establish procedures to maintain the confidentiality of those records.
What happens if a student voluntarily steps forward and admits using drugs?
Any student who is involved with drug use is encouraged to seek help by speaking confidentially with a member of the counseling staff or the administration. No disciplinary action will be taken; rather, our staff will help the student and family find appropriate resources to help with the problem.
What will happen to students who test positive?
Ultimately, this is not designed to be a punitive program; it’s designed as a prevention and intervention strategy. By identifying students at risk, we can work with their parents and health professionals to get them the help they need and re-direct their path. Parents and guardians will be notified if their students test positive, and we will work with them to address options. Certainly, our primary goal is to get help for a student who wants to stop using illegal substances. We will work with the parents in any instances where a student needs counseling or other intervention to address a drug issue that’s been identified. We have a strong commitment to preventing the use of illegal substances.
What can students expect in the testing process?
A small snip of hair will be taken from each student. The samples will be labeled and sent to a lab for analysis. Once the samples are tested, students and their parents will be informed of the results. If a student tests positive, the results will include information about the type of drug(s) used, the level of use and when the drug was used. (Hair testing can detect drug use approximately three months back, whereas urine testing is accurate for only 2-3 days for most drugs.) Samples will be taken again a few months later for any student whose initial sample was positive.
Will every student be tested?
Initially, samples will be taken and analyzed for every student. After the initial sampling, random testing will be conducted throughout the academic year.
How often will you do random tests?
This has not yet been determined, but it will be important to continue random testing to make sure our students remain free of illegal substances.
What about false positives in the testing? Can a student be re-tested if he/she thinks the analysis was wrong?
Hair testing provides the most accurate and reliable results of any analysis commonly used, including urinalysis and saliva tests. The company that will perform the analysis (Psychemedics Corp.) uses several independent approaches which, in various combinations, rule out the possibility of a positive result from external contamination.
The first method involves extensive chemical washing of the hair specimen prior to screening, followed by analysis of the content of the wash. This wash analysis is a critical step to ensure that any contamination is effectively accounted for.
Psychemedics also measures the presence of metabolites to establish whether the drugs were in the air or on a person’s hands rather than ingested.
In addition, any positive internal contamination (e.g., from passive inhalation or even poppy seed consumption) is distinguished from deliberate drug use by using appropriate cut-off levels.
Studies have shown that the combination of extensive washing, metabolite analysis, and proper cut-off levels are necessary to avoid false positives due to external contamination. More information is available on the company’s website: http://www.psychemedics.com/faq/#environment
Isn’t this a violation of the student’s privacy?
Absolutely not. Many of our students will encounter drug testing at some point in their lives – when they apply for a job or if they want to compete in athletics. Hair samples can be easily collected without the embarrassment of providing a urine sample. Most importantly, we are doing this for the benefit of our students, to keep them free of illegal substances. The certainty of detection will give them another reason to say “no” to the pressures of using illegal drugs.
Isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to make sure their kids are drug-free?
Our Catholic schools are focused on the education and welfare of the whole person, and this program is simply one more component in our student wellness efforts. We work closely with our parents and families to develop and nurture the whole person through spiritual and academic formation. This initiative is just one more component.
Are you doing this because there is a drug problem in your school?
We’re doing this because there’s a drug problem among young people in our society. While we have no evidence that the use of illegal substances at our school is higher or lower than at other schools, we want to do everything we can to keep our students safe.
What will happen if a student or family refuses to participate in the program?
All of our students and families sign contracts and agree to abide by our school’s policies. This includes all of the policies spelled out in our Parent/Student Handbook. Therefore, a refusal to participate in this drug assessment may result in dismissal. In addition, attempting to adulterate, tamper with or otherwise manipulate the testing process will result in disciplinary action.
Will we have the option of appealing a positive result or asking for a new sample to be taken and analyzed?
If parents or students do not believe the test results are accurate, they can request that a new sample be collected and analyzed. This will be done at their expense, and a new sample will be sent to Psychemedics for analysis. The school will not accept the results of tests conducted by other companies as a substitute for analysis by Psychemedics.
How will this be paid for?
The school will not charge an additional fee for the first round of testing or for follow-up random tests. We believe this is a worthwhile investment in the well-being of our students. However, in the event a student’s sample is positive, families will be charged for follow-up tests.
What if the student has a prescription?
A valid prescription will be taken into consideration as part of testing. As in the past, students should provide the prescription to the school nurse at the time the medication is prescribed.
Will faculty or staff be tested?
Faculty and staff will not be tested as part of this program; however, our policies regarding faculty and staff alcohol and drug use remain in effect.
Doesn’t this type of drug testing violate the Constitution?
Absolutely not. Private schools are permitted to conduct any type of drug testing. In addition, some public schools are now conducting certain drug testing in the interest of keeping their students substance-free.
The primary purpose for this initiative is to give students another reason to say “NO” to the pressures of using illegal drugs and to help them remain substance-free.
“Drug-related deaths have more than doubled since the early 1980s. There are more deaths, illness, and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition.”
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
“We should be extremely concerned that 12 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds are using marijuana… The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”
- Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
“Heroin is this year’s most prolific killer in Cuyahoga County. Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson says the death-dealing narcotic has taken more lives in 2013 than homicides or car accidents.”
- The Plain Dealer, December 29, 2013
ST. EDWARD HIGH SCHOOL'S CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES POLICY
The following policy will be included in the 2014-2015 Student/Parent Handbook.
Students and parents are required to consent to this policy as a condition of a student’s continued enrollment at St. Edward High School. Attendance at St. Edward High School is not a right, but it is viewed as a privilege in which students and parents are to act in a way that supports the health, safety and well-being of all students. The St. Edward High School community recognizes the inherent risks for adolescents in the use of alcohol and drugs. This use is always viewed as abuse since the negative consequences, both short and long term, are well documented and sometimes tragic. Thus, the use of alcoholic beverages, controlled substances (as defined by the Ohio Revised Code and any future additions to that code), a misuse of prescription or over the counter medications to get high, or possession of drug paraphernalia by a St. Edward student is prohibited.
A St. Edward student is any student who is enrolled at St. Edward High School with the culmination of their St. Edward experience coming at the end of graduation. The Drug and Alcohol Policy applies at all times and in all places throughout the student’s enrollment at St. Edward High School including the months of June, July and August. A student who has been judged guilty of use or possession of alcohol, drugs or drug paraphernalia will be subject to intervention and/or disciplinary measures. Some scenarios:
If a student is judged to be in possession of a controlled substance, using a controlled substance, is under the influence of a controlled substance and this is a first offense, he will be directed to his counselor and an intervention plan of action will be put in place.
If a student is judged to be in possession of a controlled substance, using a controlled substance, is under the influence of a controlled substance and this is a second offense, there will be a meeting of administrators to determine if dismissal from the school is warranted. If dismissal is not recommended based on knowledge of the student’s and parents’ sincere attempt to keep the student drug free, then the administration will make recommendations to the parents concerning what action steps that will need to be put into place that allows the student to remain at St. Edward High School.
If a student is judged to be in possession of a controlled substance, using a controlled substance, is under the influence of a controlled substance and this is a third offense, the result will be dismissal.
If a student is judged to be in possession of a controlled substance, using a controlled substance is under the influence of a controlled substance while at St. Edward High School during the normal course of a school day the student will receive consequences from disciplinary probation to dismissal.
If a student is judged to be in possession of a controlled substance, using a controlled substance is under the influence of a controlled substance at any time and is currently on disciplinary probation, the typical recommendation would be dismissal.
If a student is judged to be selling (dealing) a controlled substance or has quantities of drugs or money that would indicate that he was selling controlled substances, the recommendation would be dismissal.
Annual Screening: All students will be screened for drug use during the first semester of the school year.
Random Screening: A randomly selected group of students will be subject to screening throughout the year. Consequently, some students may be tested more than once a year. The testing company will designate a number to each student and select numbers periodically.
Behavioral Screening: Any student whose attitude, actions, language or behavior are a cause for concern in which suspicion of drug use may be involved may be subject to testing. Also, any information that the school receives that point to a student’s use of drugs, that student may be subject to testing.
Follow-Up Screening: Any student who tests positive will be subject to follow-up testing. All follow-up testing will be at the expense of the parents/guardians and reoccur approximately 90-100 days after the first positive test.
DRUG SCREENING METHOD
The means of screening will involve a hair-sampling method. A small amount of head hair is usually taken as a sample by trained personnel from within the school with two people present. Therefore, it is expected that students will wear a hair style that allows for a sample of head hair to be collected. In general, the amount needed is the thickness of a shoelace tip. Attempts to usurp the testing through head or body shaving will result in a violation of the policy. The hair sample would be collected, bagged, identified and shipped to a laboratory for analysis. The results of any positive tests will be sent to the Principal. In the case of a first positive test the Principal will contact the student’s counselor. In the case of a second positive test the Principal will contact the Dean of Students. The hair sample reveals drug use going back 90 days from testing.
NOTIFICATION OF TEST RESULTS
The parents and students will be notified of a first positive test result from the student’s counselor. The student, parent and counselor will then set up a time to meet personally to discuss what intervention steps the student will need to fulfill as a requirement of continued enrollment. If the student tests positive for a second time, the Dean of Students will schedule a meeting between the student, parents and administrators to discuss if dismissal is warranted. If a third positive test takes place the Principal will notify the parents and dismissal procedures will take place. If a parent believes that there was a false positive test, they can request an immediate second testing at their expense by the same means and through the same testing company used by St. Edward High School.
First Positive Test
Meet with the student’s counselor
Take professional Drug and Alcohol Assessment
Results of Drug and Alcohol Assessment sent to the school
Follow through on all recommendations of the Drug and Alcohol Assessment
Meet with St. Edward High School’s drug and alcohol counselor until such time as the counselor believes it is not necessary to meet
Follow-up testing every 90-100 days throughout the rest of the student’s enrollment
Second Positive Test
Meeting with school administrators
Administrators will then meet to determine is dismissal is warranted
If dismissal is not recommended then a comprehensive intervention plan with repeated testing every 90-100 days will take place throughout the rest of the student’s enrollment
All expenses for drug and alcohol assessments and treatment programs are to be covered by the student and his parents.
A violation by the student and the parents of the professional recommendations as set forth in the assessment and the requirements set forth by St, Edward High School will jeopardize the student’s enrollment at the school and result in dismissal.
We believe that there is a spiritual aspect to all drug use and that the use of a drug is an attempt on some level to fill a void that was meant to be filled only by God. Thus, spiritual counseling by a priest, minister or a person of faith is highly recommended.
Chemical dependency self-disclosures either by parents or the student are encouraged at St. Edward High School. St. Edward recognizes that chemical dependency is a treatable disease and will extend to the student and his family all the support that is available. This support may be internal or external but essentially requires following the steps as if having a positive test: professional assessment, follow through on all recommendations of assessment, etc... Recovery for the student is the primary goal of the self-disclosure program. Thus, this allows the student and his parents to take the steps necessary to make sure that the student will test drug free after one hundred days from the notification of the disclosure. A positive test after self-disclosure will result in being viewed under the second positive test criteria.
The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County
National Institute on Drug Abuse