Our students’ well-being is very important to us as evidenced by the efforts we employ in the area of drugs and alcohol.
Our testing program is one of more than 20 initiatives we have in drug and alcohol education, prevention and intervention. It was four years ago we stepped out from the crowd and showed special leadership by adding this testing component. By every measure, it has been a success.
Science reveals that the adolescent brain is not completely developed. Some sections of the brain are highly charged, such as the social and pleasure centers. The frontal lobe of the brain that controls impulsivity and executive decision making is not fully mature for teens; it will take some years past high school for these connections to be complete. The longer a teen delays using addictive substances, the better the chance of not having addiction problems as an adult.
All of Trinity High School’s education, prevention and intervention programs try to buy students time, to delay their use of addictive substances in order to keep them from training their brains to be addicted.
Leading up to our decision to implement this program, we had a research firm conduct a community-wide survey of households with children in grades 6 to 12, in Catholic, private and public schools. Respondents did not know who was conducting the study. The results gathered from more than 900 parents were compelling:
- The majority of parents were concerned that their child will become involved with drugs during high school.
- Nearly 9 out of every 10 parents supported drug testing if the aim was to help the student.
This past school year every student was randomly tested at least once. We are happy to report that even though we tested more students than ever before, the number of students found to be using decreased from the previous three years.
On average, the number is two positives out of every one hundred students. This is below what other schools like Trinity who also test are finding. This year we have already tested more than 75 percent of our students and the number of positive results continues to decline.
When a student tests positive, parents are immediately made aware of the risky decisions their son is making, and school support is provided. Almost always, parents are thankful to be made aware of their son’s poor choices. If a student tests positive, retests are mandated.
School consequences are applied for future positive tests. Becoming a man of character means learning the importance of accountability.
We hear frequently from students and parents that it really does help in peer situations to be able to say, “I can’t. My school tests.”
We also have a thorough pre-employment and random testing program for all employees. And in what is most likely the first of its kind in the country among Catholic schools, we randomly test school board members. Both efforts are done to be in solidarity with our students and to underline the school’s stance against illegal drugs and abusive drinking.
To further set an example for our students, our annual fund-raising dinner and auction is alcohol-free, just like all campus events we organize.
There are many ways to celebrate, but we know educating our students about healthy lifestyles must go beyond classroom lectures and occasional guest speakers.
Dr. Rob Mullen is president of Trinity High School and Dr. Dan Zoeller is principal.