Greentown — Using drugs in Eastern Howard schools this year could come with consequences — a first for the district.
The school board recently revised its drug testing policy, which was more than a decade old and left no room for school officials to intervene when students tested positive for drugs.
“Results of studies throughout the United States, and an increased substance abuse problem in Howard County, Indiana, indicated that education alone, as a preventive measure, is not effective in combating substance abuse,” the policy states. “Statistics show that the mission of Eastern Howard Schools has not been realized.”
Under the old policy, students who participated in extracurricular activities or who drove to school were randomly drug tested, but the results were sent only to the parents.
Administrators were never notified when a student tested positive for drugs. Superintendent Tracy Caddell said that’s not an acceptable policy anymore.
“We think the school should partner with the parents,” Caddell said. “The intent of the policy is to get students some help if they need it.”
He said he doesn’t want the policy to be too punitive, so schools won’t be issuing suspensions or expulsions for positive test results.
Instead, students will be faced with time off of their athletic teams, student groups or whatever extracurricular activities they’re involved in.
“We do not want a student representing Eastern who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Caddell said.
The first offense carries a penalty of 30 days off the team or group and a recommendation for counseling. If a re-test comes back positive, the penalty becomes 90 days, and the parents will be required to pay for their child to attend counseling in order to return to the team.
The goal, Caddell said, is to address substance abuse problems before they escalate after high school.
Studies, however, have shown that drug-testing policies don’t have long-term impacts on drug use.
The U.S. Department of Education released a study in 2010 that surveyed students at 36 high schools. Half of the schools had drug testing policies in place already. Half did not.
The study showed that drug testing worked while the kids were still in school.
At the schools with drug-testing policies, 16.5 percent of students reported using tested-for drugs in the last 30 days. That number was 21.9 percent in schools that did not have those policies in place.
Drug testing didn’t appear to have much effect on the students’ plans to use drugs in the future, though.
Nearly 35 percent of students at both schools said they “probably” or “definitely” would use drugs within the next year.
Still, drug testing is a popular practice in public schools across the country. And most local schools have their own policies in place.
Kokomo-Center Schools officials said their district was the first in the Midwest to implement voluntary drug testing.
About 12 to 15 students there are randomly tested every week.
According to Kokomo High School’s student handbook, a positive test result could prompt a restriction from extracurricular activities, driving to and from school and participating in open lunch. The students would appear before an Activities Review Panel to find out their fate.
Western High School suspends its athletes from 50 percent of athletic contests for the first positive drug test and for the entire season if the student has a second positive test.
Caddell said it was time Eastern caught up to these other schools.
“We were a little behind the times,” he said.
• Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8585 or email@example.com