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A mere two percent of students who were randomly drug tested at Marion County High School failed during the 2011-12 school year, according to results released last week at the Marion County Board of Education meeting.
"Even of the two percent that were identified, I don't think there were any surprises," Marion County Superintendent Chuck Hamilton said.
The 2011-12 school year was the district's first full year of randomly drug testing students at the high school. The program was initiated after the Marion County Safe Community Coalition received a $5,000 grant to be used for drug testing, which it gave to the board to fund the program. The total cost of the program was $5,250. The school district paid the remaining $250.
The drug testing policy requires high school students who participate in extra-curricular activities and/or drive to school to be included in the pool of students eligible for testing, as well as students who enroll voluntarily or are enrolled by their parents or guardians.
According to Assistant Superintendent Taylora Schlosser, students were tested seven times during the school year, beginning in August of 2011 and ending in March of 2012. Students were tested for the following substances: alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, codeine/morphine, PCP, and other abused, illegal or banned substances.
Out of 984 students, 686 were eligible for testing, and 360 were actually tested, Schlosser said. Only eight of those students failed to pass the drug test, and six students refused to take the test, she said. If a student refuses to participate, he or she automatically fails the test.
According to Schlosser, if a student tests positive for drugs, school staff tests the student again and sends the sample off-site to be tested. For three weeks, that student isn't allowed to drive to school or participate in extra curricular activities. At the end of those three weeks, the student must pass a drug test before privileges are re-instated, Schlosser said.
Any time a student fails a drug test, his or her parents are notified and given information regarding resources available for their child, she said.
School Board Member Bernard Miles asked if any student received help after failing a drug test.
"What parents did with them, I don't know," Hamilton said.
School Board Member DeLane Pinkston asked if the testing was disruptive for students. According to Schlosser, within an hour to an hour and a half 50 students were tested and sent back to class.
Pinkston also asked Dr. Hamilton if he thought the drug testing program was worthwhile. Hamilton said he believed it provides students with another reason to say no to drugs. Board Member Mike Cecil agreed.
"We don't know how many kids that, because of the policy, we stopped from doing drugs and alcohol," Cecil said.
Board Vice Chairman Ed Hacker said results show that comments that were made about certain athletic teams, specifically about the high school football team, apparently weren't true.
"I'm glad it dispels that rumor," Hacker said.
Marion County High School Principal Stacey Hall said, overall, drug testing ran smoothly, but he couldn't say, with conviction, if it made a difference.
"It's difficult to quantify it," he said. "If anything, I think it might have made the kids more aware of thinking twice because of the possibility that they could be tested."