Mainland Regional High School’s Board of Education has passed a new policy allowing random alcohol and drug testing on students.
The policy requires that all students involved in a sport, extra curricular activity or those applying for a parking pass in the school lot sign a consent form for random urinalysis testing for drugs and alcohol. Their parents must also sign for consent.
Failure to give consent will result in ineligibility to participate in the sport, club or to get a parking pass in the school lot.
Mainland Superintendent Thomas Baruffi said the policy was enacted at Monday’s meeting because the district was receiving a lot of complaints and concerns regarding its students engaging in drug and alcohol use outside of school. But because the incidences weren’t happening on school grounds, the district’s hands were tied.
“We felt helpless,” Baruffi said. “We know it’s not occurring in school, but are our students using drugs and alcohol? Yes.”
He said there were a couple of incidences last year where the district heard about “these big parties that were taking place locally and involved a lot of our students using drugs and alcohol,” which pushed the need for such a policy.
Prior to implementing the new policy, the school was only able to intervene if a student was assumed to be using or in possession of drugs or alcohol while on school grounds.
Information was not available Friday on whether any other school districts in South Jersey have similar policies.
Baruffi said the reason the new random testing targets a select group of students, rather than the entire school body, is because state law requires the random testing be tied to a privilege.
According to the policy, “participation in athletics and extracurricular activities and parking on campus are privileges. Students, by virtue of their voluntary participation in these activities, are regarded as school leaders and role models. Therefore, it is expected that these students maintain exemplary behavior and be drug and alcohol free.”
The selection of students to be tested at a given time will be determined at random on a lottery-type system. The dates and times for the urine testing will also be random. If a student selected is absent, another student will be selected from the pool.
The policy also states that the testing will be done in confidentiality and conducted by an outside company hired by the district, Safe Sport Testing Service, Inc. at a cost $28 per test to the district.
All urinalysis samples will be held for several days and, at the request of a parent, can be retested at their expense.
The screenings will test for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates (codeine) barbiturates, methadone, benzodiazepines (Valium) phencyclidine (PCP) and propoxyphene (Darvon).
If students test positive for any of the above, their parents and/or guardian will receive a written notification confirmed by the laboratory and the students will be subject to the consequences laid out in the policy, which vary in severity based on the number of offenses.
According the policy, first-time offenders will be removed from school until they have written clearance from a medical professional certifying that substance use will no longer interfere with the student’s mental or physical ability to participate in school.
The student and parents will also have to meet with a school official to review the policy and its consequence, and the student will have to attend at least three counseling session and agree to three subsequent random tests.
A second-time offender, according to the policy, will have to forfeit participation in sports and extracurricular activities and/or have the parking pass revoked for 60 consecutive days.
A third-time offender will lose all the above privileges for a maximum period of one calendar year. Second-and third time offenders will also be subject to the counseling and subsequent random tests.
Contact Elisa Lala:
@ElisaLala on Twitter