Mid-Michigan high school principal says drug testing policy is helpful, not punitive
(12/5/19) - The decision by a Michigan school board to approve a new, random drug testing policy for any student involved in extra-curricular activities is raising questions about other drug testing policies in other Michigan communities.
The Plainwell School Board policy was met with some backlash from parents, as reported by ABC12 affiliate
While the policy in Plainwell is new, Powers Catholic High School in Flint has been testing students for several years -- and administrators say the drug policy there has been beneficial to students and their parents.
"The whole idea behind it was that if a student is caught while using drugs that they get the help that they need," said Principal Sally Bartos.
Powers Catholic High School, a private tuition-based school, is in its 5th year of having a drug testing policy in place for all students. It was implemented by the Diocese of Lansing at all four of its high schools, including Powers.
The school also relies on campus security guard, Joe Lash, and detection dog, Pepper, to sniff out marijuana, cocaine, gun powder, tobacco and other substances students are not allowed to have on the premises.
"Drugs in high schools have been a problem since I was in high school, which was a long time ago. So to say it's a new notion is completely false," Bartos said.
While many mid-Michigan schools use narcotic-detecting dogs to help maintain a drug-free environment, far fewer employ drug testing.
Bartos, along with President Rory Mattar, explained that the test happens randomly once per year, and it is mandatory.
Bartos says unlike other similar policies, this one is not punitive.
"The notion that if we can help one kid, if we can help them overcome what could be a lifelong addiction, then it's a service rendered and a very good thing," Bartos said.
The test looks for narcotics and opioids. The high school, which has 640 students, has dealt with a handful of positive results over the years. In some cases students even use the drug testing as an excuse to say no to drugs and their peers who may be pressuring them.
There's also an extreme amount of privacy that comes along with the students' compliance.
"Literally the only person in the school that knows the results of the drug test is me," Bartos said. "We haven't actually caught a whole lot of kids but a few, and those kids I do believe we have helped a great deal."
As the effects of new drug laws are felt in Michigan, Bartos doesn't rule out the possibility of having to adapt as well.
"We're addressing the vaping issue. I think with the legalization of marijuana, you know, as this rolls out," Bartos explained. "It's hard to say exactly what the impact will be, but I guarantee we're going to have to look at that and see because certainly students will have more access."