School drug testing program cuts student drug use

At a time schools across the country are doing everything they can to fight drugs in schools, in Knoxville, Tennessee, one school has found a way. Scott County has taken a STAND against drugs.

Sarah Byrd is a senior at Scott High School. She and most students here have been randomly tested for drugs since they started high school. “I really like it because they test each and every student that signs the papers, and it lets people know who is on drugs and who is not. It makes me feel better when I know who is safe and who is not,” said Sarah Byrd.

The program is called STAND, Schools Together Allowing No Drugs. Scott County and Oneida city schools were the first in the state to start a drug testing program. “We think it’s very effective. It has actually become a routine part of our instructional program here,” said Scott High School principal Sharon Wilson.

Students are randomly tested if they have any privileges, like playing sports or even parking in the school parking lot. If their parents will not give consent for testing, students are not allowed to participate in extra curricular activities.

“It’s done discreetly. It’s not meant to embarrass or stigmatize children, it’s an avenue to get them some help, it’s an early intervention program,” said Wilson.

If students test positive, they are not punished, they get counseling.

“The reaction that we have found has been one of support and enthusiasm, especially by the parents,” said Wilson. Judge Jamie Cotton started the program in 2001.

“We’re seeing a steep decline in the number of recidivism, the repeat offenders, and in the number of positive tests overall,” said Judge Cotton.

Some were hesitant at first, but with education, more parents and students like STAND.

“If you want privileges from the school, you need to abide by their rules,” said Sarah.

Officials say it has improved students’ behavior and decreased the drug problem.

Judge cotton says many other counties in East Tennessee and other states are interested in the program.

For more information about the STAND program, call the director, Trent Coffey, at (423) 286-9925.

 Source: www.WBIR.COM April 2005

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