VERMILION — After completing the first year of its random drug testing policy, the Vermilion school district has already set up another program to combat the drug abuse epidemic in the district.
Josh Budka, a tutor for Vermilion Schools, along with school administrators, is leading a drug abuse awareness program targeting seventh-graders, which starts this fall.
The program is called Saving A Life Together — or SALT — and focuses on preventing drug abuse at a younger age.
“It’s not to medicate the problem but to prevent the problem,” Budka said of the program, which he described as similar to D.A.R.E. “It’s an answer to a cry for help.”
The program will consist of quarterly talks with students where Budka will speak about drug awareness and prevention, though he plans to be merely a coordinator. Students, Budka said, will lead assemblies and other events to raise awareness and keep the conversation going about drug abuse in Vermilion.
The program comes on the heels of a policy Vermilion Schools established last year to randomly drug-test students who do extracurricular activities and park their vehicles on school grounds. Though Budka said SALT wasn’t formed as a response to the policy, it does spring from the same goal — stopping drug abuse before it starts.
“It’s (created) in connection with the fact that kids are dying,” Budka said.
The drug testing policy — which the Amherst school district also has adopted for the coming year — proved successful, said Vermilion Academy principal Tim Lamb. The academy is an alternative school operated by the district.
Lamb said that along with raising awareness, drug testing gives students another reason to refuse drugs. “It gives them armor to say ‘No, I can’t do that,’” Lamb said.
Lamb hopes that SALT may even inspire some students to volunteer to be tested when they go to high school.
“We’re showing we’re committed to a drug-free lifestyle,” he said.