North Olmsted school board passes plan to drug test middle school students

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NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio -- After months of meetings and public feedback, the North Olmsted School Board unanimously approved a new plan to drug test middle school students Wednesday night.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Zalar says the program will essentially be an extension of the current substance abuse testing policy that was implemented four  years ago at the high school.

“We’ve had a very successful four years of testing at the high school and we look to expand it to the middle school so we can intervene at the earliest age,” said Dr. Zalar.

The random screenings will apply to seventh and eighth grade students who want to participate in sports and/or other extracurricular activities.

Discipline for those who test positive will be progressive, says Dr. Zalar.

The first time a student tests positive they will have to sit out two weeks.  A second positive test will result in a 20% reduction in participation time and then 50% for a third positive test.

However, Dr. Zalar says it’s not about punishment but rather intervention.

“Really the emphasis is on getting the student into a counseling program,” said Dr. Zalar, “So this is really an effort on the part of the district to partner with parents to try to intervene with our students at the very earliest age and to help them make good choices when it comes to substance abuse.”

Some high school student athletes told FOX 8 they thought the plan made good sense. And, the district said most parents have also been very supportive.

Although at the school board meeting one mom did express some concerns.

“I guess for me, enough explanation hasn’t been given as to how it’s going to be implemented,” said Kelly Sullivan.

The superintendent says the district will work closely with parents to ease any concerns and answer any questions.

Testing younger middle school students is part of a national trend.  Dr. Zalar says they're not the first in the state or even the area to do it, and testing isn’t about punishing students, rather helping them.

“Drugs and alcohol can be an early warning sign of a number of behaviors; certainly this would provide an opportunity to intervene at that age,” said Dr. Zalar.

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