The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 12, 2013

School cop: Let’s do voluntary drug testing

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — Hermitage patrolman Anthony Moses holds out no hope that the illegal drug problem can be kicked anytime soon, if ever.

But Moses, who also is the school resource officer at Hickory High School, believes a voluntary drug-testing program will help keep some kids from trying drugs.

If such a program were begun at Hickory, Moses believes it could turn peer pressure from a negative force – so many kids take drugs because of pressure from their friends – to a positive one.

“The kids who are not in it (program) feel like outcasts,” said Moses, who introduced the concept to the school board Monday.

Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell called the idea “a unique opportunity” to address “a complex issue.”

Under Moses’ proposal, students, with parental permission, would submit their names to add to a pool of names, and four names would be chosen at random each month to be tested.

Trained school personnel would collect hair from the students and send the samples to a testing laboratory. The results would be sent to the students’ parents.

The tests would detect the use of marijuana; opiates, the basis of drugs such as heroin and OxyContin; amphetamines; barbiturates; methadone; cocaine; ecstasy; and other drugs.

School officials and the police department would not receive the results of the tests.

“It has to be nonpunitive because parents wouldn’t want their students involved in this (if it were),” Moses said.

However, it would give parents a tool to know if their kids are using or not, he said.

“I want parents to know I’m not out to get their kids in trouble,” Moses said. “I want to work with parents and let them know they have an avenue.”

Parents could come to school officials if their kids test positive, but only to seek help for their students or themselves in dealing with the issue, Moses said. Referrals could be made to Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, Sharon Regional Health System, Community Counseling Center or other agencies, he said.

The tests could be done for $60 each through Psychemedics Corp. of Boston – blood and urine tests are much more expensive – and Moses said he’s trying to work with Hermitage’s SADD chapter to secure funding so parents and the school would not have to pay.

“A student could enter and get out of the program any time they want, with their parents’ consent,” Moses said.

Moses sees the drug problem as more serious today than it was when he was growing up because of the availability of more dangerous and more addictive drugs, including synthetic drugs, bath salts and prescription painkillers.

Champion, Ohio, schools have a random drug-testing program, and Moses said he spent a day with a Champion principal talking about how it was implemented there.

School board President Dr. Morren J. Greenburg, who administers drug tests through his medical practice, called the program “a good idea,” and supported the use of hair testing.

Parents and students he has talked to about the program have been supportive, Moses said.

Moses said he had “lost faith” in young people during his 20 years as a patrol cop. His time at Hickory has restored some of that faith, he said.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said of the students. “There are some good kids here. They’ve jumped on board with this.”