For now, Kaua‘i just says ‘No’

“Random student drug testing is a powerful prevention program,” said Kaua‘i High School Principal Linda L. T. Smith. “It gives students a reason to ‘say no.’”

Smith and Waimea High School Principal Bill Arakaki attended the Random Student Drug Testing Summit in Honolulu last week. The summit was arranged by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Arakaki said he came away with good information about student drug-testing programs, but he will wait for direction to come from the State Superintendent and the Board of Education.

“Because we are a state system, things like this have to be systematically implemented,” Arakaki said.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, said the issue of student drug testing comes up almost every year, and thus far based on phone conversations and e-mails, says he hasn’t noticed any increased interest.

“For a variety of reasons at the legislative level, no laws have been passed that require random drug testing of students,” he said. “The BOE has not taken a position on it.”

Hooser said he would prefer to spend resources on treatment and education.

“I think that’s where our money is best spent,” he said. “The fundamental mission of school is to teach kids, to provide them with technology and facilities and properly trained teachers. That should be our first job. That’s what I am focusing on.”

Hooser also said that student drug testing raises constitutional and privacy issues.

Arakaki said the American Civil Liberties Union was present at the summit. It had an informational booth outside the summit and participated in the question-and-answer portion of the program.

The summit agenda included presenters who covered some of the issue areas: legal history/current legal issues; current drug-testing technology; developing student drug-testing policy; student assistance and support programs; and funding. The agenda also included a panel presentation by members of Mid Pacific Institute.

Mid Pacific Institute, a private school on O‘ahu, started voluntary random student drug testing in the 2005-2006 school year with 435 students. This school year that number increased to 615. Next year they are expecting around 650 families to enroll.

Richard Schaffer, MPI’s high school principal, wrote in an e-mail that based on surveys, 86 percent of their families support the program.

The description of their program is on the school Web site. The school has also posted the form that parents and students must submit indicating whether they choose to enroll in the drug testing program or not.

According to the Web site, the program is non-punitive. Test results are sent directly to parents. The school does not receive information on individual test results.

“The program is designed to gently force a discussion between parents and students. Students won’ t get removed from athletic teams or from school if the test is positive,” the e-mail states.

Schaffer’s e-mail states that from the pool of students who volunteered to participate in the program, 10 names are pulled for testing each month.

The urine test is done on campus by technicians from an outside drug-testing laboratory in a secure, private area.

If the initial screening is positive or non-negative, it is sent to the Medical Review Officer who validates the findings and determines the cause of the positive or non-negative test result.

The MRO, who is a certified medical doctor, contacts the parents.

Schaffer wrote that the indicators of the program’s success come from surveys that show conversations on drugs have improved, students have used “I’m in the program” to avoid drugs, student use of illegal drugs has declined, and there is overall parental and student support.

The United States Supreme Court upheld a drug-testing program for students involved in competitive extracurricular activities. As Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation president, Arakaki is constantly looking for ways to improve drug awareness and drug intervention programs.

Students will be meeting to plan an up-coming safe and drug free school conference scheduled for April 30. Arakaki said it will be interesting to see if students bring up the topic of drug testing.

The DOE’s Comprehensive Student Support System offers an array of services to support student needs, so if students have problems with drugs or alcohol, there are ways to provide services for them, Arakaki said.

Hina Mauka, for example, is a drug and alcohol treatment program with a person on-site at Kaua‘i’ s middle and high schools as part of its Teen Care program. A student may voluntarily enroll in a 16-session program.

“Students have someone to go to, someone to work with,” Arakaki said.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com

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