Rockhurst High School Will Test All Students for Drugs
Citing an attitude of permissiveness among students about drug and alcohol use, the Rockhurst High School Board of Trustees unanimously decided to begin a program of mandatory and random drug and alcohol testing of all students beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
School Official and Student Discuss the Benefits of Drug Testing
Program is believed to be first in KC area. Hair samples will detect drug use and evidence of binge drinking.
By JOE ROBERTSON
The Kansas City Star
Beginning in the fall of 2013, every student at Rockhurst High School will be tested at least once a year for drug and alcohol use.
“It’s a huge shift,” Principal Greg Harkness said Thursday. It’s an unprecedented step among Kansas City area schools.
“But it’s one we need to do,” he said.
Not because the private Jesuit school has any extraordinary drug and alcohol abuse problems, Harkness said.
But because the school wants to help its students take a stand against illegal substances, and aid those at risk of abuse.
The new policy, announced Thursday, came after two years of research and discussion and retriggered an ongoing debate on the roles schools can and should play to influence their students’ lives.
Many members of Rockhurst’s junior class in the all-male school were involved in the conversations between school staff, trustees and parents as the policy were shaped.
Students in those meetings, like 17-year-old Matthew Brocato, anticipated some of the concerned reactions among students hearing the news for the first time, because he went through the same emotional swirl.
“When you hear ‘drug testing,’ you think cops,” Brocato said. “At first you’re taken aback. Is it for the better?”
But the purpose isn’t to punish students, he said. The school wants to help.
The first time a student tests positive, there will be no disciplinary consequences, but a confidential meeting will be held with a school counselor and the student’s parents.
A second positive test would go to the dean of students for possible discipline.
What students are learning through the process is that, while the pressure to use drugs or alcohol may sometimes be high, the actual amount of use among Rockhurst teens is not as high as many students think.
A testing policy will make it easier for students to turn down offers for drugs or beer.
“It’s helping the students out,” 16-year-old Dante Pennipede said. “I’ve seen kids succumb to peer pressure. This gives another reason not to.”
Like Rockhurst, Christian Brothers College High School weighed many of these concerns when it opted to test its students six years ago, said the school’s president, Mike England.
“In our mind, it was a student health issue,” he said. “It would be in the best interest of our students to give them a reason to say ‘no.’”
The St. Louis school has used the testing company Rockhurst will use, Psychemedics, to take hair samples from students to detect drug use and evidence of binge