Huntington drug testing its students

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 16, 1999

Headmaster Russ Green wants to stop problems before they start at Huntington School. So the private Ferriday, La., school has begun mandatory drug testing for its students.

Green said the school polled parents to find out their opinions on the plan before making it school policy this year.

&uot;All of the parents agreed in advance,&uot; he said.

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Green said the point of drug testing is to protect his students – and get them help.

&uot;The whole idea is not to get rid of the kid,&uot; Green said. &uot;The idea is to help them.&uot;

Green said he hasn’t seen any telltale signs of drug abuse among his students. &uot;You look at them and there’s no obvious signs,&uot; he said.

But he wants to make sure they are safe.

A seminar last year gave Green several ideas on improving his school’s safety measures – one of which was drug testing. &uot;There are reasons parents send their students to private school,&uot; Green said. &uot;One of them is security. They want to make sure their kids are safe.&uot;

So far 148 students have been tested, and all of the tests were negative, Green said. Eventually all of the students in grades seven through 12 will be tested throughout the year.

Even if students are tested early in the year, that doesn’t mean they won’t be tested again later, Green said.

&uot;We can use it as a deterrent,&uot; he said. &uot;If a student is at a party and is offered drugs, they have an out. They can say, ‘My school drug tests.’&uot;

An independent company is performing the tests, so Green doesn’t know anything until the results are sent back to the school.

If a drug test comes back positive, Green will call the student’s parents. To stay in school, the student will have to attend drug counseling – paid for by the parents.

After counseling, the student will have to submit to a drug test every time one is offered again at the school – again paid for by the parents.

And if a drug test is positive a second time, the student will be expelled.

Cathedral School Principal Scott Fleming said that school’s policy, approved last year by the Catholic diocese, allows administrators to test students for drugs and alcohol if they suspect a problem when the student is on campus.

&uot;If we have reasonable suspicion, then we will implement it,&uot; Fleming said.

So far Cathedral officials have not had to test any students, Fleming said.

But if a student does test positive for drugs or alcohol on campus, disciplinary action will be taken, he said.

&uot;Each case is a separate case,&uot; Fleming said. &uot;It depends upon the severity of the incident.&uot;

Huntington parent Janice Turnage agrees with the drug testing policy at the school. The youngest of her seven children is a senior at Huntington.

&uot;I’m for helping my child any way I can,&uot; she said. &uot;If we could catch a problem before it is a problem, I’m all for that.

&uot;You’ve got to provide for not only their mental well-being but also their physical well-being.&uot;