By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Greentown — Eastern Howard School Corp. is expanding its drug-testing program next year amid growing concerns that heroin use is spreading into rural communities, officials said Wednesday.
Starting in August, the district will use urine tests in addition to saliva tests to determine if athletes and kids who drive to school have been using drugs, Superintendent Tracy Caddell said. Officials also will be testing twice as many students in grades seven to 12.
This year, Eastern has averaged 20 to 25 random tests per month. That will go up to about 50 per month for the junior high and high school that has 669 students.
Why the expansion?
“This is not about catching students being bad,” Caddell said. “It’s about helping kids with substance abuse problems.”
The superintendent said law enforcement and experts both locally and nationally have said that heroin is beginning to filter into rural areas. And prescription drug abuse remains a problem among young people.
Caddell said he didn’t want to take a chance when such dangerous substances are involved.
And it’s not that officers are seeing a heroin explosion in Greentown, Caddell said.
“We’re just hearing enough information that we’re concerned,” he said. “When you hear the word heroin, it sends chills down your spine.”
That’s why the district is moving toward urine testing, which detects drugs in the body longer. Caddell said he wants to give the district a greater chance of catching students who decide to try harmful substances.
The expanded policy will take effect next year.
The district wants to give parents time to adjust to and understand the new rules — especially the urine testing.
“It can be a little more intrusive,” he said.
District officials posted the new drug testing procedures on Eastern’s Facebook page Wednesday.
Many who saw the post, supported the changes. Thirty-one people “liked” the post by late afternoon. Two people shared it to their page. Another three people left a comment.
One woman said she supported the measure 100 percent. Another said it’s an example of excellence at Eastern.
Caddell said it doesn’t matter whether parents support the measure.
“We’ll do what we have to do to keep students safe,” he said.