The Hopewell Valley Regional School District has seen a drop in drug infractions at the high school since implementing a new random drug testing policy.
The policy was approved by the board of education prior to the start of the 2018-19 school year. Officials presented the results from the first year of the policy at a Sept. 16 board of education meeting.
In the 2017-18 year Hopewell Valley Regional High School had seven drug infractions (disciplinary actions) by students, which dropped to three when the new policy was implemented.
“Last year was the first year for this,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Smith said. “The 2017-18 year we started the conversations with town halls. This conversation came about after a climate and culture survey with high school students and parents in 2017.”
The 2017 survey that Smith is referring to produced results that indicated 53.4% of the high school students agreed or strongly agreed that drugs and alcohol are a problem at the school. 46.1% of parents surveyed also agreed that alcohol and drugs were a problem.
During the 2016-17 school year, the high school had a total of 24 drug infractions with students.
“I think this policy is working. We will never be able to quantify the number of students who did not use because of the policy and that is what we are really targeting,” Smith said. “I am happy with the decrease in students under the influence and from the beginning if we can have one student make the right choice from this it is worth it.”
Hopewell Valley Central High School has a student population of about 1,200. Out of a pool of 936 students, 389 were randomly tested.
Students consent to being randomly tested to be able to be involved in extra-curricular programs, including all clubs and athletic programs and to participate in student parking with a permit at the high school. Students can also voluntarily enter the student pool for testing with parental consent.
The students are assigned random identification numbers as members of the testing pool, according to officials.
“We use a third party company in Ohio for testing and they do a random generation of numbers and send it back to the high school principal the night before. The students are then brought down to the nurses office to get the sample the next morning,” he said.
11 students out of the 389 tested positive during the first school year of the policy in 2018-19. The range of substances included Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound for marijuana, and stimulants such as amphetamines.
According to officials, a student who tests positive under a random test would not receive academic suspension but rather alternatives that focus on prevention, such as meeting with the Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) and attending and completing an Early Intervention Program.
Student testing of urine samples is not done by the school district but a third party company in Ohio called Sport Safe.
Officials said a testing record of any student will not be used to initiate or substantiate any criminal charges against a student or to conduct any investigation of the student.
“We said we would review the policy annually and we made some adjustments to the policy last June. We will continue to review the effectiveness of the policy each year,” Smith said. “For us our whole focus is to catch the situation early and give the students support. We are looking to address this issue that impacts families and a community.”