KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Schools across Kansas City have varying drug and alcohol policies. Depending on which school a student attends, they could be subjected to a breathalyzer, a urine test, and now, hair sampling.
Rockhurst High School recently announced a new, controversial way of testing its students for drug and alcohol use.
The Jesuit preparatory school for boys will conduct random -- but mandatory -- hair sampling of students. The hair test can show any usage of drugs or alcohol for a period of ninety days prior to the test.
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Area high schools have very different policies when it comes to drugs and alcohol, but similar beliefs about why policies are in place.
41 Action News talked with several area administrators and looked through policies from schools across the city, including Rockhurst High School, Notre Dame de Sion, Blue Valley, Oak Grove, and Kansas City, Mo.
All administrators told us the same thing: The health and well-being of their students is their number one concern.
Those involved with any kind of testing said it is about giving the student extra strength to say "no" and to make the smart decision if presented with drugs or alcohol.
All administrators said, hands down, alcohol is of most concern, followed by marijuana. However, in some districts where testing is done, alcohol screening is not included. Oak Grove, for example, uses urinalysis to detect the presence of a particular list of drugs. That does not allow for testing of previous alcohol use.
Oak Grove randomly tests 15 students per month, costing $15 a test -- an expense the district currently covers. They are intrigued by Rockhurst's hair testing procedure, but assumed the cost would be too high for their district. Rockhurst officials said the new process would cost $58 per test.
Blue Valley told 41 Action News they are not considering anything more than what's currently in place. However, they admit Rockhurst's move will more than likely spark conversation within their district.
Sion does not have any plans to implement anything more than the current policy when it comes to drug and alcohol use. The bigger concern at Sion, according to the head of school, is teaching students how to manage stress. She said if kids learn early, they may avoid turning to substance when they are stressed.
41 Action News looked through policies from schools across the city. Here's a sampling and a brief summary of each:
Oak Grove High School randomly tests students through urinalysis. Any student who parks on campus or takes part in extra-curricular activities with the school is subject to the random testing. The test looks for the presence of a number of drugs, including marijuana and methamphetamines. School administrators express interest in the idea of being able to test for the presence of alcohol, since it is the number one substance teens tend to abuse. However, cost is a major factor. A first offense results in a meeting with parents.
Notre Dame de Sion, a local, all-girls independent Catholic college preparatory school, does not test for drugs, but does administer random breathalyzers at school functions. The school believes similarly to Rockhurst, in that the their job is to educate the whole student. There is no disciplinary action taken upon first offense.
"Educating children these days it's not just 'Are they getting English, Math, Social Studies and Sciences,' it's 'How are we fully developing that student,'" Sion's Head of School Chris Broderick said.
For the students at Sion, Broderick said the top concern is a student's ability to manage stress and workload.
"I'm a working mom with two kids. I've gone to college and done graduate school, and I'm really busy every day. I would say the majority of our girls here -- and we have 400 students -- are just as busy, if not busier, than I am and they haven't even begun their life yet as we know it," Broderick said.
It is the belief of staff at Sion that helping a student learn to deal with stress early on will help keep them from making unhealthy choices to deal with that stress.
Blue Valley does no testing of any kind, except on the rare occasion a school resource officer suspects a student of being under the influence of alcohol. Then, a breathalyzer can be administered. District officials said that was a rare occurrence.
Students involved with extra curricular activities within the district sign an agreement to avoid drugs and alcohol. If found to be under the influence, a first offense results in
suspension from extra-curricular activities for no more than 50 percent of the season, a conference with school administrator, coach, and parents and verification of enrollment in professional treatment program.
Any student found to be under the influence could face suspension for up to 10 days. If the offense is an apparent violation of criminal or juvenile laws, principals will notify authorities.
Rockhurst High School will randomly test students starting in August, by way of a hair sample. The school principal said the plan is to have tested 80 percent of the student body by the end of the school year. First offense results in a meeting with the student's assigned counselor and parents to determine the most affective way to help the student. The student then has 90 days to get clean and be retested.
Kansas City, Missouri's school policy on alcohol and drug abuse is "not a strict policy" as described by staff. There is no testing done and bigger issues to combat. Dr. Louis Cordoba, the executive director of student interventions, said the district has more pressing issues right now: education, truancy, violence, etc. The current policy states searches of a student are always an option, and any student caught with or using unauthorized substance "shall be referred for prosecution and subject to disciplinary action...including removal from extracurricular activities, suspension, expulsion or other... Strict compliance is mandatory."
Shawnee MIssion's drug and alcohol policy is one of zero tolerance. Students who violate the policy face out of school suspension including possible long-term expulsion. School officials are required to contact police when a violation is detected.
North Kansas City's policy involves "disciplinary action up to and including suspension, expulsion or other discipline..." It goes on, "school principal shall immediately report all incidents involving a controlled substance to the appropriate local law enforcement agency and the superintendent."