We started this program out of a deep concern for the health and well-being of our students. The primary purpose for this initiative is to give students another reason to say “no” to the pressures of using illegal drugs and to help them remain substance-free. This initiative is simply one more component in our student wellness efforts.
Testing a hair sample for drugs offers significantly greater detection ability than other methods of analyzing body fluids such as urine or saliva. Many drugs are undetectable in urine as soon as 72 hours after use, whereas they can be detected in hair samples for several months after ingestion. In addition, it is much more difficult to adulterate or substitute hair samples and collection is much less intrusive, as well as more cost effective.
Cocaine, marijuana, opiates (including heroin, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone), methamphetamines, ecstasy (MDMA), Eve (MDEA) and phencyclidine (PCP) can all be detected. A standard test of 1½ inches of head hair cut close to the scalp can provide a several-month window to detect drug ingestion.
We have retained the services of Psychemedics Corporation of Boston, the world’s largest provider of hair testing for the detection of drugs of abuse. Psychemedics has been conducting drug testing since 1987 and has conducted testing for hundreds of schools and colleges. In addition to educational institutions, its patented process is used by Fortune 500 companies, major police departments and other public entities. More information is available at www.psychemedics.com or www.schooldrugtesting.com.
A very limited number of staff members have access and custody of the drug-testing records, and procedures are in place to maintain the confidentiality of those records. No records or reports will be provided to colleges or anyone else, for that matter.
Ultimately, this is not designed to be a punitive program; it’s designed as a prevention and intervention strategy. By identifying students at risk, we can work with their parents and health professionals to get them the help they need and re-direct their path. Parents and guardians will be notified if their students test positive, and we will work with them to address options. Certainly, our primary goal is to get help for a student who wants to stop using illegal substances. We will work with the parents in any instances where a student needs counseling or other intervention to address a drug issue that’s been identified. We have a strong commitment to preventing the use of illegal substances.
Any student who is involved with drug use is encouraged to seek help by speaking confidentially with a member of the counseling staff or the administration. No disciplinary action will be taken; rather, our staff will help the student and family find appropriate resources to help with the problem.
A small snip of hair will be taken from each student in grades 9-12. The samples will be labeled and sent to a lab for analysis. Once the samples are tested, students and their parents will be informed of the results. If a student tests positive, the results will include information about the type of drug(s) used, the level of use and when the drug was used. (Hair testing can detect drug use approximately three months back, whereas urine testing is accurate for only 2-3 days for most drugs.) Samples will be taken again a few months later for any student whose initial sample was positive.
Hair testing provides the most accurate and reliable results of any analysis commonly used, including urinalysis and saliva tests. The company that will perform the analysis (Psychemedics Corp.) uses several independent approaches which, in various combinations, rule out the possibility of a positive result from external contamination.
The first method involves extensive chemical washing of the hair specimen prior to screening, followed by analysis of the content of the wash. This wash analysis is a critical step to ensure that any contamination is effectively accounted for.
Psychemedics also measures the presence of metabolites to establish whether the drugs were in the air or on a person’s hands rather than ingested.
In addition, any positive internal contamination (e.g., from passive inhalation or even poppy seed consumption) is distinguished from deliberate drug use by using appropriate cut-off levels.
Studies have shown that the combination of extensive washing, metabolite analysis, and proper cut-off levels are necessary to avoid false positives due to external contamination. More information is available on the company’s website.
Absolutely not. Many of our students will encounter drug testing at some point in their lives – when they apply for a job or if they want to compete in athletics. Hair samples can be easily collected without the embarrassment of providing a urine sample. Most importantly, we are doing this for the benefit of our students, to keep them free of illegal substances. The certainty of detection will give them another reason to say "no" to the pressures of using illegal drugs.
Absolutely not. Private schools are permitted to conduct any type of drug testing. In addition, some public schools are now conducting certain drug testing in the interest of keeping their students substance-free.
Our Catholic schools are focused on the education and welfare of the whole person, and this program is simply one more component in our student wellness efforts. We work closely with our parents and families to develop and nurture the whole person through spiritual and academic formation.
We are doing this because there’s a drug problem among young people in our society. While we have no evidence that the use of illegal substances at our school is higher or lower than at other schools, we want to do everything we can to keep our students safe.
All of our students and families sign contracts and agree to abide by our school’s policies. This includes all of the policies spelled out in our Parent/Student Handbook. Therefore, a refusal to participate in this drug assessment may result in dismissal. In addition, attempting to adulterate, tamper with or otherwise manipulate the testing process will result in disciplinary action.
If parents or students do not believe the test results are accurate, they can request that a new sample be collected and analyzed. This will be done at their expense, and a new sample will be sent to Psychemedics for analysis. The school will not accept the results of tests conducted by other companies as a substitute for analysis by Psychemedics.
The school will not charge an additional fee for the first round of testing or for follow-up random tests. We believe this is a worthwhile investment in the well-being of our students. However, in the event a student’s sample is positive, families will be charged for follow-up tests.