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Rockhurst High School to begin testing all students for drugs, alcohol

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

After two years of discussing a new policy, the Board of Trustees at Rockhurst High School have agreed on a program that would begin drug and alcohol testing on all students.

The high school will be the first private school in the Kansas City metro that will be putting all of their students through mandatory drug and alcohol tests.

Psychemedics, a drug and alcohol testing company, will test student hair samples to detect drug use and evidence of binge drinking. A small piece of the student's hair will be cut and placed in a bag and sent off for testing.

The first tests will be conducted during the opening convocations in August 2013.

"We'll be testing for cocaine, PCP, marijuana and opiates," Principal Greg Harkness said.

Harkness said the new policy was announced Thursday to parents and students after the Board of Trustees made an unanimous decision.

"We are insistent in our belief that drugs and alcohol use is not a necessary component of youth and we are drawing a line in the sand about that," he said. "The use of drugs and alcohol is illegal and has a documented negative impact on developmental and academic progress."

Junior Matt Brocato said there has been mixed reaction among students.

"Over the past couple of classes we've been talking about it and kids are becoming more comfortable with it. They're understanding it's to help us and isn't meant to try to catch us off guard."

The board has been researching the topic of drugs and alcohol for two years. They conducted an anonymous survey of their student body and learned that 176 student out of 1,100 admitted they're using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis at least twice a month.

"So with this program, what it's going to do, if they aren't making good choices, we can intervene. If you want to stay here, we get you the help and resources you need to be a more productive student," Harkness said.

Rockhurst will use a health and wellness approach with students who test positive. Students with a first positive test result will not receive disciplinary consequences. They will be offered counseling and their parents will be notified. Together, the counselor and parents will develop a program for the student that may include outside counseling and other services to help the student become drug or alcohol-free.

A second positive result will be referred to the Dean of Students for possible disciplinary action.

The ultimate goal is for students to return to good health, Harkness said in a news release.

The hair sample tests that will be used can detect if a student has used drugs or alcohol during the last three months.

Parents like MaryAlice Williams said it's all about keeping students safe.

"I fully support it. I think it's a wise decision. Kids are faced with lots of outside influences and it just reinforces the rules at home that there should be no drugs or alcohol," she said.

Each test costs $50 and is paid for out of the student activity fees collected. School officials will randomly select student ID numbers to determine who goes through the process each time. Several tests will be done throughout the year.

The school's goal is to have at least 80 percent of the student body tested.

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