HERMITAGE — Hickory High School began its voluntary student drug testing program last week, taking hair samples from three students out of a pool of 100, said Principal Chris Gill.
While officials could have taken 10 samples, they decided to start slow.
“We want to get familiar with the process,” he said.
The program was pitched by School Resource Officer Anthony Moses, a Hermitage police patrolman, as a way of exerting positive peer pressure to keep kids from taking drugs.
School officials spent the better part of last year formulating a policy and setting procedures.
The hair samples will be tested for the use of various drugs – including marijuana, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines – and the results will be sent to parents, who must have approved their children’s participation to begin with.
School officials do not get the results of the drug tests and cannot punish a student based on his or her participation in the program. Officials will refer parents who approach them to agencies who can help kids with substance abuse issues.
Gill said he has heard no negative responses to the program from parents.
“The majority of parents were, ‘Where do I sign? What do you need me to do?’” he said.
Still, Gill said he thought more than one-eighth of the eligible student body – grades eight through 12 – would sign up.
“From my standpoint, I thought we would have a lot more than that,” he said. “According to the agency we are using, he was surprised we have that many.”
The samples will be tested by Psychemedics Corp. of Boston. Gill said he did not know when parents might expect to receive the test results.
School officials said in October that had collected more than the program’s first-year budget of $4,000 in donations and grants.