Some local private schools made news recently in announcing that all students will be subjected to periodic drug tests. Administrators say it’s to counter the rapid rise in heroin use by teens and get help for those who may be addicted. But some question whether the mandatory testing is truly beneficial. The issue sparked a spirited debate on today's “Sound of Ideas” program. For StateImpact, Brian Bull reports.
How serious is the heroin problem?
Tom Stuber has a bird’s eye view as CEO of Lorain County’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services. He says the rate of overdose deaths in Ohio rose 300 percent over the last three years.
“The overdose deaths among the state overall, has continued to rise and surpass auto fatalities three years ago," says Stuber. "And the leading cause of accidental overdose. And the problem is, that individuals…young people…are getting addicted from beginning experimental use, or even prescribed use, of narcotics.”
St. Edward, St. Ignatius, and Gilmour Academy -- all Catholic high schools in Cuyahoga County -- came to the conclusion that they need to be more proactive.
By plucking a single hair, school officials can learn if a student is using drugs and that’s what they plan to start doing this fall.
Brother Robert Lavelle, Head of Gilmour Academy, explains why he supports the initiative.
“We really want to have kids grow up and be in a very safe environment and you want to be able to help them move through adolescence in a way if they can, merge through that, addictive free, we want to be a part of that resource for them," says Lavelle.
"And so I think doing this effort allows a youngster who’s starting on that path, to perhaps get the help he or she may need.”
A number of parents at the schools have indicated their support for the drug testing policy but others complain that they weren’t consulted first.
Some say it teaches kids the wrong lesson – that you’re guilty till proven innocent.
"Paul"…a caller to the show and St. Ignatius alum, is one of those outraged by the school’s policy.
“In fact I got a letter yesterday from Ignatius asking for more money, and I give them money every year…but I’m really doubting it now," he said. "Y’know, why should I pay for this? Y’know, parents are responsive. And they can do their own drug testing, I think.”
You can hear the complete program by going to wcpn.org and clicking on the “Sound of Ideas” link.