The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

May 22, 2012

Midd-West spends wisely on drug tests

By one measure, it could be argued that Midd-West spent $750 for each of the two drug-using students snared in random tests this year given as part of a new policy.

School officials are more inclined to see the $1,500 as the cost of demonstrating that 132 students tested drug-free.

And looking at it that way, the effort was a worthwhile investment.

Midd-West's decision to define almost any activity, including parking privileges and attendance at school dances, as voluntary, helped ensure almost total compliance.

Only 23 students out of 946 did not enroll in the pool of those willing to submit to random drug tests.

So with the specter of random drug testing hanging over the heads of 923 students, two students tested positive. It may be said that the district's drug-free policy was over 99 percent effective. This while the latest Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse report found that 27 percent of public school students described their schools as "drug-infected" and 1-in-3 middle school students said they were aware of drug use at school.

Superintendent Wesley Knapp said that this year, the district did not have a single drug-related expulsion. Knapp added that attorney fees for a single expulsion hearing could easily exceed the $1,500 the district spent on drug tests this school year.

The implementation of Midd-West's random drug testing policy hit a snag when school officials initially notified a senior girl that she would not be allowed to attend the prom because she had not turned in the form indicating that she would take a drug test if asked. School officials relented at the last minute, but not until after public sentiment clearly came down on the side of the student.

The data showing the effectiveness of random drug testing suggests that the prom flap should not be used to undervalue the district's approach for convincing students to remain drug-free.

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