Perry Township considers testing students for drugs and alcohol

Southport High School. (WTHR Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – The Perry Township School District hopes to toughen its drug and alcohol policy. A new proposal calls for allowing the district to test students, who appear to be under the influence.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Bohannon said it's in direct response to the vaping crisis, impacting teens across the state.

"Vaping has become so prevalent and not just at our two high schools but around Marion County and the country and it's important we get ahead of this the best we can," Bohannon said.

Like all districts, Perry Township strictly prohibits student use or possession of drugs and alcohol on school property and at school events. But this policy adds drug tests to the mix.

It would permit school officials to require a drug test if there's "reasonable suspicion" a student is under the influence on school grounds, at school events and when traveling to or from a district activity.

Bohannon said, drug tests would be done "on-site," meaning at the school by someone trained in administering them, such as a nurse or school resource officer.

"It helps to do it on-site," he said. "Then we'll know if that student is truly under the influence at the time."

Bohannon said the district had been considering student drug tests for a year, initially moving toward "random tests."

But when student leaders argued against "random" tests they decided to base the tests on "reasonable suspicion."

Still, some students and parents aren't sure about drug tests. Many wonder what would actually prompt one and when parents would be notified.

Aubreyah Green, a sophomore at Southport High said, "What if a student is tired and someone thinks they're high? I don't think it's fair to students."

The policy as of now states that "reasonable suspicion" would include a student's behavior in conjunction with physical appearance, actions and/or odor, if the student possesses a drug or drug paraphernalia and if a parent, school employee or officer indicates a student is possessing or using.

One parent said she would want to notified before a test was given.

"If (a student) exhibits behavior (the district) has got to get parental approval especially if it's a minor," she said.

Bohannon says the policy that is still under review, will spell out what constitutes reasonable suspicion, how and and when parents are notified and the consequences for failing a test.

He wasn't sure when the proposal would come back before the board for a second reading and possibly a vote.

When it comes to determining the drug testing policies at a school, it's largely up to the district.

State lawmakers typically don't get involved, leaving the decisions up to school boards but most of these policies fall into two categories – either mandatory, random testing or testing based on suspicion.

A check of 10 central Indiana school districts found that the majority provided some sort of student drug tests.

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