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Drug testing policies for Tamaqua students studied

Published October 14. 2009 05:00PM

The Tamaqua Area School District is examining options in creating a policy for the drug testing of students.

During the district's education committee meeting Tuesday evening, Stephen P. Toth, assistant principal at Tamaqua Area High School, discussed research he has done into drug policies of other school districts.

Toth said there are three districts in Schuylkill County that currently have drug testing policies: Williams Valley, Minersville and North Schuylkill.

Toth explained he is reviewing those policies for how the districts administer the tests, costs to the districts as well as discipline and remediation for students who have positive test hits.

Regarding the testing itself, Toth noted that some districts use local testing, such as hospitals, while others hire outside agencies.

"The costs of the testing are wide ranging, between $6 and $100 a test," he said. "Panel tests have a wide scope of different drugs that they test for."

Toth related that Minersville uses an on-site stick drug test with saliva or urine, in which the stick would give off a certain color for a positive test, but the positive tests are sent out to a laboratory for verification. The accuracy of off-site tests are close to 100 percent, higher than on-site tests, and results are available within 24-72 hours.

Toth said he also spoke to a consultant who recommended that "this pocket of Pennsylvania should have at least 8-10 drugs included in the panel test," including over the counter medications.

Assistant Superintendent Raymond J. Kinder said he has also done previous research into the topic, talking to the Delaware Valley School District.

"It depends on how much money you want to invest in this," said Kinder. "Some do it completely at random, some test at least once a year. You need to put money in the budget to fund it."

Dr. Thomas Rottet, board vice president and chairman of its auxiliary committee, said he feels drug testing for students is a good idea and a good deterrent, especially for those involved in extra-curricular activities.

"The threat of being tested will keep children from using drugs, but there are children going off the reservation that may not care," said board President Larry A. Wittig. "That's the segment of the population we are addressing."

Director Bryan Miller asked if there is treatment available. Toth said there is a remediation segment for each scenario.

"We need to come up with a policy that will serve the interests of the students of Tamaqua," said Superintendent Carol Makuta.

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