Random Drug Testing May End at Hillsborough High
Committee recommends the district stop testing after program showed 'inconclusive reports.'
The Board of Education will vote later this month whether to stop the random drug testing program at Hillsborough High School.
The vote on the recommendation by the Education Committee is expected at the July 23 BOE meeting.
Thuy Anh Le, chairwoman of the committee, said at Monday’s school board meeting that the recommendation was made after reviewing the program’s results since it was implemented in the 2008-09 school year.
Le said the program showed “inconclusive reports” and the goal of an annual 5 percent reduction in drug use was not met.
“We can’t really explain what the data means,” she said.
Board President Thomas Kinst urged parents to attend the July 23 meeting to give input about the recommendation before the board vote.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Lisa Antunes, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, outlined the annual results of the random drug testing program, which had been funded by a grant until the 2011-12 school year.
In the 2011-12 school year, 50 students were tested and six positive test results were found. The tests revealed marijuana use.
In the 2010-11 school year, 199 students were tested and eight positive results for marijuana were recorded.
In the 2009-10 school year, 189 students were tested and seven positive results for marijuana were recorded.
In the 2008-09 school year, 200 students were tested and five positive results for marijuana and opiates were recorded.
The target population of the tests were students in grades 9-12 who were involved in athletics, extracurricular and co-curricular activities and those who chose to participate in the program with parental consent. That totaled about 94 percent of the school’s enrollment.
A grant helped defray the costs of the random drug tests in the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, while the district paid the entire $2,675 cost of the program in the 2011-12 school year.
Board member Greg Gillette said he was “shocked and appalled” that only 50 students were tested in the 2011-12 school year, a quarter of the number tested in previous years. The enrollment of Hillsborough High School is 2,409.
Gillette said he had thought there had been money in the budget to perform the same number of drug tests as previous years. He said the board should have been notified when the decision was made to test only 50 students.
High school principal Karen Bingert said the drug tests may have been seen as a deterrent to drug use because it gave students “a reason to say ‘no.’” But she also said the small number of students who were tested, less than 10 percent of the enrollment, made “the odds in favor” of the student who was using drugs.
"It’s a roll of the dice,” she said.
The annual American Drug and Alcohol Survey of Hillsborough High School students showed that in the 2011-12 school year, 54 percent of the students used alcohol in the past year while 17 percent admitted they had used marijuana in the past year, Antunes said.
The voluntary survey, given with parental consent, is anonymous and contributes to a national database, Antunes said. About 57 percent of Hillsborough High students participated in the survey.
The survey also showed 8 percent of the students had used marijuana in the month previous to completing survey and 17 percent within in the year.
“We clearly have a problem,” said board member Christopher Pulsifer, but added there was “no control” in the data required for a better analysis.
Antunes encouraged more parents to come to the schools and participate in anti-drug programs.
“We need to get the message to parents that the students are getting in the classroom,” board member Judith Haas said.