Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jun 2014
Source: Over the Mountain Journal, The (AL)
Contact:  2014 Over the Mountain Journal
Author: William C. Singleton III
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The Vestavia Hills school system will begin a new voluntary 
drug-testing program for the 2014-2015 school year.

The program will include students in the seventh through 12th grades 
who volunteer to participate. Students and their parents must sign 
release forms to participate in the program, city and school officials said.

The program will cost $40 a year.

Vestavia Hills conducts random drug testing for students involved in 
sports and extracurricular activities. This pilot program takes the 
current testing approach a step further, officials said.

"We have students in our extracurricular program who have never been 
tested, and others have been tested five or six times," Councilman 
George Pierce said. "This is for the parents. We hope they take 
advantage of it."

Jerry Dent, Vestavia Hills school board president, said the program 
is "just another tool that allows parents to help manage their 
children's social lives."

The voluntary drug program was announced recently at a city council 
meeting. School leaders have also met with parents at Pizitz and 
Liberty Park middle schools and the high school to discuss the program.

"Anything we can do to get students to not participate in drugs and 
resist them, that's what we want to do," Vestavia Hills Schools 
Superintendent Jamie Blair said.

Safety First, a division of Birmingham-based Behavioral Health 
Systems, will administer the drug tests. Under the program, 
participating students will be tested at least twice a year-once in 
the fall and once in the spring. Test results will be given directly 
to parents.

A positive test will not mean a suspension or any disciplinary action 
by the school system, city and school officials say. Hopefully, 
parents will use the information to make the necessary decisions 
within their own families, officials say.

"The testing bureau will be glad to help them in any counseling or 
assistance they might need," Pierce said.

If a student stays in the program until graduation and stays clean, 
he or she will receive a certificate that indicates his or her 
drug-free status while in the program. Pierce said that could be a 
deciding factor for college admission.

"If a university is looking at a Vestavia student and another student 
with comparable grades, the Vestavia student will be able to present 
a certificate stating he participated in a voluntary drug (testing) 
program and tested negative," Pierce said. "The university may be 
more inclined to accept the Vestavia student because he's been more 
responsible versus the other student."

City leaders also said the time is right for such a program.

"We've got a problem and we know it," Mayor Alberto "Butch" Zaragoza 
said. "We've had five or six heroin deaths (since) last year, and we 
need to start addressing that. And the volunteer area is the correct way to go."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom