The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

March 12, 2013

Adults, students to get drug test queries

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — Hermitage school officials have not decided to implement a voluntary student drug testing program, or even concluded the best way to go about it.

But, officials are planning to run the idea by some students and adults to gauge support for the idea.

Hermitage patrolman Anthony Moses, who is stationed full time in the school district, pitched the idea of voluntary testing last month, arguing that it could generate peer pressure to keep kids from trying drugs in the first place.

A small group of students who sign up for the program would be tested monthly, but results only would be sent to parents. School officials and police would not learn if students tested positive or not.

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.

Hickory High School Principal Chris Gill said the presidents of school clubs will be given the same presentation on Moses’ idea Wednesday as school board members were given last month.

Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell said the topic also will be on the agenda for an upcoming Citizen’s Advisory Committee meeting. The committee is a group of parents who meet with school officials, and officials have bounced ideas off them in the past, Bell said.

While Moses recommended that hair be tested, officials also are considering urine testing, Bell said. Hair tests are more expensive but are less invasive for students, and the accuracy of each kind of test tends to be a product of how extensively a sample is tested, officials said.

“They both have issues,” Bell said.

Many school districts that have voluntary testing programs use hair, and are not necessarily worried about the tests being foolproof.

“It’s a preventative tool to give the kids a reason not to get into drugs in the first place,” he said.

Moses is writing to potential donors to determine if there are grants available to pay for the testing. Moses had recommended a company that can perform hair tests for $60 a pop.

Board member Tim McGonigle asked if the tests would go on in the summer, when students are out of school.

“If it doesn’t go through the summer months - those are the most idle months for our kids,” he said.

Bell said officials had not reached a conclusion on that issue.