Topeka high school tests hair for drugs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Catholic high school in Topeka has been randomly testing students’ hair to determine if the students have been using drugs.

Hayden High has been testing students for drug use for more than a year. Under the program, the school takes hair samples from a pool of randomly selected students once a month. The samples are tested by a drug-testing company, Psychemedics, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/18hkSov ).

“It’s in the best interests of our kids and our school,” said Michael Monaghan, dean of students.

In the program’s first year, the 2012-13 school year, only about 2 percent of drug tests came back positive. The tests cost $39 per sample.

If a sample comes back positive for drug use, the school contacts parents and refers the student for a professional evaluation. The student is also barred from participating in or attending the school’s extracurricular activities for a month.

Monaghan said a “large number” of the school’s students are tested but declined to say how many per month. Some students were tested a couple times last year, while others weren’t tested at all.

Principal Mark Madsen said that before the school introduced its program, administrators looked at eight schools in Kansas and other states that were already conducting drug tests. Hayden chose hair tests over urinalysis.

“We felt this was the least intrusive and easiest to do,” Madsen said.

Urine tests identify drug use only within the past few days, while hair tests can find a wide variety of substances going back as far as three months, he said.

Before launching the program, the school surveyed parents and found about 90 percent of parents and 80 percent of students supported the program. Monaghan said that parents can also ask to be present when their child is tested. Students can decline to provide a sample, but under the school’s policy, doing so is treated the same as testing positive.

“I was scared to death the results would get mixed up,” said 17-year-old Ryan Spellman, president of the student council. “I didn’t understand the process.” He said now he thinks the comfort level has increased for many students.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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