May 6th, 2015

Trinity to begin school-wide drug testing program

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer


Trinity to begin school-wide drug testing program
Trinity students walking into school / photos from Trinity High School

“I can’t. My school tests.”

Trinity High School has announced a new school-wide drug and alcohol testing policy that will take effect in August, at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.

In an interview with Trinity President Dr. Rob Mullen, the new policy was outlined and highlighted as an opportunity to save lives, not just while students are enrolled at Trinity but for a lifetime.

“About five years ago we began to look into this (drug testing) seriously,” Dr. Mullen said. “There are a number of Catholic high schools around the country who are doing this.”

Mullen cited several of those schools by name as he and a few Trinity administrators and staff visited and talked to those schools in Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Cleveland, among others, to see how the process worked. Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., currently employs the program that Trinity will use and Bethlehem High School, in Bardstown and a part of the Archdiocese of Louisville, also administers a drug testing program.

Psychmedics Corp. will handle all of the testing. Trinity has worked with the company in the past year-plus to administer any drug or alcohol testing as part of their current policy.

“We do a whole host of things already to educate and try to prevent our students from using drugs and alcohol,” Mullen said. “It is a pretty extensive list of things and involves education, prevention and intervention and also involves parents and students.”

Any member of the student body will be subject to a random test. Mullen said that approximately 75 percent will be tested in the first year.

“A very, very small portion of a student’s hair is taken, sent to a lab and we’ll get the results in about a week,” Mullen said. “This will indicate drug and/or alcohol abuse occurring in the last 90 days. We’ll follow the same kind of approach that Catholic schools around the country are doing.”

If a student tests positive, Trinity will set a meeting with a parent and the student as well as one of the school counselors and an assistant principal. The administrator will inform the student that they tested positive and for the specific substance(s).

“If the student puts up a fuss or denies it, we’ll let them know that the company still has a hair sample and we will have it tested again,” Mullen said. “The science behind this is strong. Universities, police departments, Fortune 500 companies all use this company. We’ve been using them for the past two years if someone violates or has violated our drug and alcohol policy. No one has ever challenged the results.”

The school will test randomly via computer model. Mullen said the aim is to test every student every year within two or three years. A first positive test will not result in expulsion of the student; rather Trinity administrators will encourage parents and students to get the help they need to overcome the issue. The school will provide community resources, offer experts in adolescent drug and alcohol use and have the support system currently at the school to assist the student and the family.

“What schools are finding, and one of the major benefits of a program like this is that it equips students with a very powerful tool, just five words: ‘I can’t. My school tests.’ No matter how persuasive I may think I am as a teacher or parent, peer pressure trumps all of them,” Mullen said.

Beyond the tragic ramifications regarding drugs and alcohol that dot the high school and teenage landscape of today’s culture, the debilitating long-term effects of early alcohol and/or drug addiction on the brain have made researchers keenly aware of how important it is to stop addiction before it starts. Testing and those five words—“I can’t. My school tests.”—provide another line defense for students who may face the heavy weight of peer pressure to drink or take drugs.

Athletic Director Rob Saxton said that he and the coaches at Trinity are all on board with the program.

“As a parent of three Trinity graduates and as a former Trinity coach, I know that such a program will help our young men make better lifestyle decisions and overcome the difficulties of teenage peer pressure,” Saxton said. “In my current role of Athletics Director, I know that our coaches wholeheartedly support the program as we work together to develop and form our student-athletes on and off the field of play.”

Undoubtedly it is a big moment for the school and for the young men and the families this program is designed to protect. As Mullen firmly stated, “This is about saving lives. A life that may be saved now, while the student is at Trinity, or even five, 10, 20 years after they’ve left our campus.” 

 

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