The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 23, 2013

Sobering new policy

Students could face drug tests

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — Since last week, Sharon students suspected of being drunk or high have been subject to drug testing.

The “Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing” policy that took effect April 15 was outlined in a letter sent home to parents.

According to the policy, school officials will immediately call parents for their consent to test their child, although refusal will be treated as a positive result.

“This is not an ‘I got you’ situation,” Superintendent John Sarandrea said, adding that he would like it to be used as an intervention tool to catch a drug or alcohol problem early.

“This (substance abuse by a student) happens every once in awhile – too much for the school not to do something,” Sarandrea said. “We’re not perfect, but we are smart enough to know it.”

Prior to the new policy, when students came to school under the influence, administration could only send them home, which did not help the problem, Sarandrea said.

The policy is a result of a year’s work by school board members, he said. They worked on an intervention plan that they believe will help students and hopefully serve as a deterrent against drug and alcohol use, he added.

According to the policy:

Once tested and two labs confirm a positive result, the student will be referred to the Student Assistance Program.

Although each case is different, Sarandrea said, the student would be required to undergo drug and alcohol counseling and would get back in school immediately, with SAP monitoring the student’s follow-up treatment.

After-school activity privileges will be revoked for a time and monthly drug testing conducted until the end of the school year – at the parents’ expense. In some cases, suspension and expulsion may be warranted.

Sarandrea said that athletes undergo mandatory drug testing weekly, and he thinks this gives them an “out” to refuse drugs and alcohol, and helps them from succumbing to peer pressure.

“This is no different than reporting physical abuse – so we don’t ignore drug abuse,” Sarandrea said.

Sharon Regional Health System experts conducted an in-service to help staff recognize warning signs of intoxication or drug abuse.

The hospital’s list of student behaviors that may prompt suspicion of substance abuse was copied onto the reverse side of the parent letter.

“Kids will trip up sometimes, and it’s our job to help them up,” Sarandrea said.