The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

May 14, 2013

Officials ask school board to approve drug testing

HERMITAGE — Hermitage School District administrators are sold on a voluntary drug testing program for students and hope that school board members also see it as a tool for preventing drug use in the district.

The board will vote next Monday on whether to allow administrators to continue developing the plan into a formal policy.

No school board members spoke against the plan Monday.

School resource officer Anthony Moses, a Hermitage police patrolman, went public with the idea in February of creating a voluntary program in which the hair of a small, randomly selected number of students is tested monthly for drug use.

Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell said the program would not be a cure all, but “yet another step” in trying to curb drug use in students.

“I strongly believe in this program,” Moses said.

Parents would issue written permission for their students to participate, and could pull that permission in writing at any time.

Up to 10 students in grades 8 through 12 would be picked from a pool of participants. School officials would cut a small amount of hair from students and send it to Psychemedics Corp., Acton, Mass., where the hair would be tested for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines and phencyclidine (PCP).

The results of the tests would be sent to parents. School officials and police would not be notified of the results.

The confidentiality of the program would be a key to its success, Moses said. Parents would not sign their kids up if there was any chance word could get out, he said.

“If we breach that, the whole program is compromised,” he said. “Nobody is going to trust it.”

The students Moses has talked to have overwhelmingly supported it – which is something that surprised the 20-year veteran of street patrolling.

“When I went to the junior class, I was shocked at how many students said, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” Moses said.

However, the support also is indicative of the high level of leadership among the student body, Moses said.

Administrators believe those leaders will exert positive peer pressure on other students and boost participation.

It will be slow going at first, if the results in Hermitage mirror that of other schools, Moses said.

However, it gets to the point over time where it is “odd” that a family does not participate, Moses said.

Kizak said he would consider the program a success when the number of students participating is significant.

Dr. Morren J. Greenburg, who, as a physician, is obligated to report a positive drug test of a patient to PennDOT, asked if school officials would be under the same obligation.

“If we come aware of that, we would report it,” Moses said. However, the point of the program is that police and school officials not become aware of a positive test.

“It’s a totally different dynamic” from the mandatory testing that Greenburg administers, Moses said.

Solicitor Roger R. Shaffer Jr. agreed, but added that officials should contact the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office for confirmation of that point.

Greenburg also asked about the amount of hair that will be snipped, saying that he would not want students to be able to be identified by their peers because of missing hair.

Moses responded that staff members have not been trained but he has been told by Psychemedics that they need very little hair to conduct the tests.

“I can’t imagine it would be readily seen,” Moses said.

Officials would use a computer program to identify students for testing, and it is possible a student could be tested more than once, Bell said.

“I’m definitely an advocate of the program and I would definitely sign my kids up,” said school board member Robert S. McGowan.

Hickory High School head teacher Rice Whaley said students liked the basic tenets of the program but were worried that parents would be left “high and dry” if their children tested positive.

School officials responded that parents would receive notification that their children will be tested before the tests are conducted, and would be sent a packet of information that includes contact information on seeking help for students. The information also would be posted on the district’s website.

If the board approves the program, district administrators would contact the Pennsylvania School Boards Association for help in drafting a formal policy, which the board would have to adopt.

School officials also would then work on funding the program. The tests would cost $40 each, up to $3,600 a year. Moses is seeking corporate grants to offset costs. Bell said he hopes the district can avoid putting its own money into the program, but cannot guarantee that.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Prison term upheld for sex offender

    A sex offender challenging a 4- to 8-year prison sentence for a probation violation lost an appeal of that sentence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man, 24, must register as sex offender for life

    The Ohio man who exposed himself to Sharon girls on their way to school last fall must register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life when he gets out of jail.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man deemed predator – for now

    A former Sharon man was sent to the state prison system Tuesday for corrupting the morals of a teenage girl, but the question of whether his penalties under Megan’s Law will stand could be subject to future legal proceedings.

    April 23, 2014

  • Not even waste will be wasted

    Tom Darby admits he wishes the startup of the anaerobic digestion process at the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Plant had moved along much faster.

    April 23, 2014

  • 3rd Earth Fest draws families to Penn State

    Penn State Shenango’s Earth Fest has become a spring tradition for area residents.
    Families poured into downtown Sharon for the campus’ third annual sustainability celebration.

    April 22, 2014

  • Amish clean Shenango River Volunteers protect Shenango River

    Shenango River Watchers has spent more than a decade working to clean up the Shenango and improve recreational access to its water and banks.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • For many, recycling’s become way of life

    When Pennsylvania mandated curbside recycling for its larger municipalities in 1998 – those with more than 5,000 people – there was grumbling about government interference in the lives of everyday people.

    April 22, 2014

  • Many items can’t be thrown away

    The computer screen in front of you isn’t likely to do you much harm, at least not until it’s tossed in a landfill where the lead-filled components start to leak and eventually find their way into your drinking water, according to Jerry Zona, director of the Lawrence-Mercer County Recycling/Solid Waste department.

    April 22, 2014

  • David Sykes' solar panels Earthworks

    While touring Germany last year, David Sykes spotted solar panels resting in a residential back yard.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Burned using Icy Hot, woman claims

    A Grove City woman has sued Chattem Inc. and Rite Aid of Pennsylvania Inc., alleging she suffered a second-degree chemical burn using one of Chattem’s Icy Hot pain relief products.

    April 21, 2014

  • Family outing Family friendly

    “We’re No. 5’’ isn’t a sports cheer you’ll hear any time soon.
    But considering the lumps the greater area has gotten over the years on economic rankings, it’s an outright victory.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • To demolish or not Tear it down? Fix it up?

    In 2007, Richard D. Givens bought a home at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage for $245,000.
    Today, the city of Hermitage is seeking the demolition of the now-vacant house, arguing the damage from water infiltration makes the structure not worth saving.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from April 19, 2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Man admits having child porn

    A Mercer man accused of soliciting and downloading photographs of nude teenage girls pleaded guilty April 8 to sexual abuse of children for possessing child pornography.

    April 19, 2014

  • Police getting new tool to fight crime

    Sharon police working at crime scenes will be putting a powerful new investigative tool to work as soon as next month.

    April 19, 2014