Students at three Northeast Ohio Catholic schools and their parents learned today of a new drug testing policy coming next fall.
The schools announced this morning the policy which will involve conducting drug tests on all students at St. Edward High School, St. Ignatius High School and Gilmour Academy.
"Like all teenagers, our students face pressure to experiment with illegal substances. They see a growing tolerance of a drug culture in mass media, in society in general, and even in our legislatures. In fact, drug abuse is probably the largest single threat to high school student achievement facing our country today," Jim Kubacki, president of St. Edward High School, wrote in a letter to students and parents.
According to the letter, the program will involve testing hair samples taken from the students. The three schools are using Psychemedics Corporation of Massachusetts for the testing.
The entire student body of each school will be tested in the fall with followup random drug tests throughout the 2014-2015 school year. Students haven't raised any concerns over privacy. Some at St. Ignatius are receptive to the program, even relieved.
"It gives you a perfect opportunity to just get away because while someone might say, 'You're a wuss if you don't do this, you can't be part of the group,' you can say 'My school drug tests,' " explained St. Ignatius student Kellen Duggan. "Even if that's the reason you are giving and you're really looking out for yourself, that's a good enough reason to not do it."
"I think it's hard to see people you know struggle with addiction because you care about them and you love them very much," said St. Ignatius student John Price. "It's not trying to pry into your personal life or find our where you're doing drugs. It's trying to help you deal with the actual problem -- why you do the drugs and to help with the addiction."
Evidence of drug use can remain in a person's hair for up to 90 days.
"Therefore, we are letting students know about this upcoming program now, well beyond that 90-day window, to allow students ample time to make the right choices so that all of our tests return substance-free," Kubacki wrote in his letter.
Read the full text of the letter from Kubacki to students and parents:
Dear St. Edward Class of 2018 Parents and Guardians,
I am writing to inform you of a very important initiative we announced today at St. Edward High School. As Catholic schools focused on the education and welfare of the whole person, we have formed a partnership with our friends at Gilmour Academy and Saint Ignatius High School on a wellness initiative that will focus on keeping our students drug-free through a combination of education, testing and support.
Like all teenagers, our students face pressure to experiment with illegal substances. They see a growing tolerance of a drug culture in mass media, in society in general, and even in our legislatures. In fact, drug abuse is probably the largest single threat to high school student achievement facing our country today. For example, we have all seen numerous news reports over the past several months on the nationwide heroin epidemic. While we have no evidence that the use of illegal substances at St. Edward is higher or lower than at other schools, we want to do everything we can to keep our students well and safe.
Beginning next fall, we will conduct drug testing of every St. Edward student, using a non-invasive, proven hair sampling procedure. Our Board of Trustees approved this program after extensive research. Along with Gilmour and Saint Ignatius, we have retained the services of Psychemedics Corporation of Massachusetts to test hair samples of our entire student body in the fall, followed by periodic random tests throughout the 2014-2015 school year. Evidence of drug use can stay in a person's hair for up to 90 days. Therefore, we are letting students know about this upcoming program now, well beyond that 90-day window, to allow students ample time to make the right choices so that all of our tests return substance-free.
Earlier this morning, we met with our student body to explain this program, as did our partner schools. We wanted to let you know as well. We will provide more information in the fall when your son joins our freshman class. More information about the new St. Edward policy, as well as answers to frequently asked questions may be found on our website at www.sehs.net/wellness, and more information about Psychemedics and their testing protocol can be found at www.psychemedics.com.
Once again, it is important to note that this initiative is about helping our students first and holding them accountable second. We decided to initiate drug testing in our student body out of a deep concern for the health and well being of our students. The stakes are too high. We are confident that our testing program will empower our students to make the right choices. Additionally, it will give them an "out" when faced with inevitable peer pressure. For students who are at risk, identifying that risk will allow us to work with parents and health professionals to get them the help they need and re-direct their path. Ultimately, this is not designed to be a punitive, "gotcha" program; it's designed as a proactive prevention and intervention strategy to keep our students safe.
This initiative is simply one more component in our student wellness efforts to combat the range of threats high school students potentially face such as bullying and physical security, along with a range of issues such as healthy eating choices, the importance of exercise, and our concussion testing program.
Privacy will be a priority with all testing information. Only the principal will receive test results. If drugs are detected the student's parents and school counselor will be informed so that the follow up assessment can begin. As always, we will work with you in any instances where a student refers himself as in need of counseling or other intervention based on drug or alcohol abuse.
We are partners in the formation of the young men who you entrust to us. It is our responsibility to provide the students of St. Edward High School with every tool necessary to keep them safe and pave a path to success. This new initiative will do just that. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.