July 24, 2014

Elyria
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test

Just one student has tested positive for drugs since Vermilion started testing

VERMILION — Since drug testing has been implemented in Vermilion Schools, only one student has tested positive for drug use.

Assistant Superintendent Jim Balotta said the student is undergoing counseling and has been cooperative after testing positive for marijuana.

Balotta said he believes the drug-testing policy is giving more students a reason to say no to drugs.

The mandatory drug testing, approved by the school board in August, tests students in grades eight through 12 involved in extracurricular activities and those who purchase a parking pass. Balotta said the program will expand to include students in intramurals, choir, band and students who qualify for sign-out days when qualifying juniors and seniors sign out of school early.

Balotta said the district still is considering testing students whose parents sign them up, regardless of their participation in extracurricular activities.

“It’s going very, very well,” he said.

Drug tests have been implemented approximately 15 times, with 30 students randomly selected for testing each time. Those students are pulled from their classrooms at various times in the day for the urine tests.

Balotta said if a urine sample cannot be given, Great Lakes Biomedical, the company chosen to administer the tests, will take a swab from the student. Balotta said swab testing is not preferred, however, as it doesn’t test for as many drugs as the urine test, which can pick up 11 different drug compounds, including nicotine.

Balotta said there is $24,000 in the budget for drug testing and for a drug and alcohol prevention program, presented to students in fourth through eighth grade. The school board has estimated that each urine test costs about $20 and each saliva test is $22.

Parents are notified if their child tests positive, but Balotta said he is the only one in the district who knows the results of the test. The student is responsible for undergoing counseling, as the district has specified that the policy would not be punitive.

If the student is uncooperative, the district has said that student could be pulled from extracurricular activities.

Athletic Director Phil Brickner said the policy has not curbed signups for athletics. Brickner said spring signups are expected to increase this year.

“It’s not about catching students. … It gives them that extra backing to say no,” he said. “It might be an encouragement for some of these kids who are fearful of peer pressure.”

Students have mixed opinions on the tests, however.

Some, like junior Sarah Bost, feel that the policy is not implemented in an efficient way to curb drug use.

“The tests aren’t bad, they are just given at the most inconvenient times in the middle of a class,” Bost said in an email. “I don’t think the students care for the testing. It’s more the parents that get outraged because their child has been tested about five to eight times in the past couple of months, yet there are students who do drugs that have yet to be tested.”

Bost acknowledged that drug use is a big problem in Vermilion. She said students who test negative for drug use should be removed from the random pull until every student is tested at least once.

Sophomore Madison Lachner said that if some students are tested, all students should be tested. She said some students have been tested seven times, while others have yet to be.

Senior Ashleigh Konopka said she believes the tests will have the desired results. Konopka, who has been tested herself, said she does not like the procedure, but she believes it’s for the greater good of the district.

“As a student, I feel that my school district actually cares about our futures and wants to make a difference. I have seen some classmates of mine go from being talented in a certain area, like sports, musical ensembles, or even academics, to getting involved in drugs and wasting their life away,” she said. “Drug testing is the first step to identifying the problem, and to see the school board take this step to try and get some help for these students is great.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.