Hayden High School Randomly Tests Its Students For Drugs

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Hayden Catholic High School administrators say a new policy on random drug testing was designed for students' best interest.

"We are trying to help our students make good choices as part of our philosophy to help students be successful," President Rick Strecker said. "In making good choices, sometimes they need help."

After almost two years of gathering statistics, Hayden administration informed students and parents before the school year began.

Students are selected randomly on a monthly basis to give a hair sample. Some students may be selected more than one time.

Staff cuts a pencil-width amount of hair from the back of the student's hair and secures it inside a foil envelope. The strands are then sent to Psychemedics, a drug testing company in Tennessee, and results come back within days.

The test screens for five commonly used drugs outlined by Psychmedics: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCPs and amphetamines.

Administrators chose hair testing over other methods, like urine sampling, because it is more extensive and accurate.

While the test sounds daunting, Strecker says this is a way to provide a tool to help students say "NO" to peer pressure.

"We really hope that we don't catch anybody, that we don't have any positives. That's not the purpose," he said.

If a student does test positive, the consequences are a short suspension and a chance to get clean. More offenses mean an assesment and possible counseling from an outside agency, free of charge.

Strecker said the school has not encountered anything to that level so far.

No student will ever be expelled immediately after a positive test, and it won't be on the student's permanent record.

"We don't want to catch you doing something," Strecker said. "We want to help make good decisions."

The tests, however, are to pinpoint the chronic drug users.

Mike Monaghan is Dean of Students and also has a daughter at the school. He said other parents just like him raised concerns and questions about the policy. The school held a series of parent/student meetings to ease all those concerns.

"I like it from a parent perspective in that the school is helping partner with me to raise my daughter," he said.

Brenda McNary is a teacher and a parent to a child at Hayden. "If your child isn't doing drugs, you have nothing to hide," she said. "It keeps us all in a better environment. I'm not against having any of them tested."

As they expected, some students were against it, quipping that they don't want to lose any of their hair, or it's against their student rights.

Sarah Pimentel and Andrew Gaffney, both seniors, have already been tested.

"As a whole student body, we were surprised that it was actually going to happen, but it didn't bother us too much when it did," Sarah said. She, along with other students, had been hearing rumors about a possible drug test for a while.

Andrew says his group of friends isn't too worried about the testing either. "I thought it was a good idea to help deter from those activities."

For the school, the policy is about being realistic and helping to prevent a problem from developing. It doesn't mean the school has a drug problem.

"There's a drug and alcohol problem in society and our students are just as much a part of that society as any other school," Strecker said.

Parents and students seem to agree.

"There has been student/parent/community buy-in because they recognize the value of having a safe school," Monaghan said. "Not only are the kids safe because they're not on drugs, they're making better choices."