Porter County school districts committed to drug testing
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent May 10, 2014 11:20PM
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:47AM
Despite increasingly tighter budgets, many school corporations say they are willing to continue paying for student drug testing.
Testing falls into two categories — students in extracurricular activities or who drive to school and those who fall under reasonable suspicion of drug use.
Valparaiso schools Superintendent Mike Berta said the share of students testing positive for substance use normally runs about 2.5 percent to 3 percent, but no Porter County schools provided numbers reaching that level.
Although Valparaiso schools found 2 percent of students testing positive, the program’s worth it, “to create a culture that’s healthier,” Berta said.
School officials said students have told them a testing program leads to less drug use among students, and students have another reason not to give into peer pressure.
“We’re giving our kids another reason to say no,” Duneland School Corp. Assistant Superintendent Jim Goetz said.
Testing won’t have a big impact on those who are inclined to use drugs or those who would not, but it affects those “on the bubble,” Goetz said.
East Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin said random testing is “definitely worth it because we don’t look at it as a punitive policy but a preventive policy.”
Gardin didn’t return emailed questions about drug testing at Washington Township, Morgan Township and Kouts schools.
At $9,350, Valparaiso Community Schools has tested 340 of the 1,372 eligible Valparaiso High School students in the program’s first year. Since January, the school district has paid $27.50 per test at Indiana University Occupational Health Services in Valparaiso through a grant from the Porter County Substance Abuse Council.
Valparaiso Community Schools also has received matching grants from the Porter County Community Foundation, The Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and Indiana University Occupational Health Services, according to the district’s substance abuse coordinator, Jennifer Hippie. The district didn’t provide numbers on how much it spent on drug testing.
Union Township School Corp. has spent $6,750 this school year at $30 per test at Great Lakes Labs. Of 225 students — 10 middle school and 15 high school students a month — 1 percent tested positive, the district reported.
“The testing is paid for from grant funds as available and through the (district’s) general fund when grant funds are not available,” Union Township Superintendent John Hunter stated in an email.
District voters last year approved a tax increase to raise its general fund by $1 million each year for seven years.
Duneland School Corp. reported that it spent about $2,400 this year testing seven high school and three middle school students a month. About 60 percent of high school students are eligible, creating a pool of about 1,400.
Goetz declined to say whether any students have tested positive, citing privacy considerations.
Portage Township Schools doesn’t test students for drugs, and cost effectiveness is part of the reasoning as was a meeting with student leaders, Superintendent Ric Frataccia said.
“The students didn’t (think that random urinalysis) was going to be a deterrent, so we have some more studying to do,” Frataccia said.