AURORA – More than 200 people responded to the Aurora School District’s feedback form seeking input on a proposed drug testing plan and approximately 65 percent of responses were in favor of the policy.
This was in contrast to sentiments expressed at a Feb. 28 meeting where around 150 people who attended appeared to be mostly opposed to the proposed plan, according to officials who hosted the session. The remaining 35 percent were either against the policy or felt changes were needed, such as making the program voluntary.
The survey was posted on the school district website last month. It asked respondents to identify themselves and state their opinion on the proposed testing program.
The proposed program is an administration initiative and is being studied by a committee formed by Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli. Officials say the results of the survey will be discussed at the next School Board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. April 23 in the Aurora High School media center. Ciccantelli did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Under the proposed policy, up to 10 percent of students participating in extracurricular activities, or who want a high school parking pass, would be randomly tested at various intervals throughout the school year.
Students and parents can refuse to participate in the testing program, but refusal would result in students being ineligible to participate in activities or park at school.
Many who were opposed to the policy said it should be a parent’s responsibility to monitor their children and not the school’s. Others said they felt the company who presented the policy was not knowledgeable enough and could not answer questions during the Feb. 28 meeting.
Some parents had more scientific responses such as one, who said her husband works in the pharmaceutical industry and believes the test that would be used is not accurate enough to differentiate between a prescription opioid and those that would be found in poppy seeds used in cooking.
"If the school won’t let you take your second sample to another company, and the company they use might not be able to do a thorough investigation on the positive tests, there are going to be false positives. And to ruin a high school student’s career based on a false positive drug test seems really unfair/awful/unforgivable," she said.
While some who responded said they believe there is a drug problem in the schools, others do not.
One parent wrote that "Based on conversations that I have had with my freshman, I do think that there is a drug problem in our schools. I can’t believe the stories that I have heard. I think this policy would be an effective deterrent, and it gives kids a reason not to try/take illegal substances. The policy isn’t punitive, and I don’t know how more data could be collected because AHS students currently taking drugs would probably not admit to it ... If this policy can save one kid, than it is worth it. We need to come together as a community and help the kids who need it before it is too late."
Another parent said "The Aurora school system receives awards and recognition for excellence ... it proves the drug problem is not affecting education in Aurora."
The author added "It’s not a school problem, it’s a societal problem."
One response from a student said they see many of their classmates "smoking weed, vaping and drinking," but believes harder drug use such as heroin and cocaine is not an issue but could become one as the result of the testing policy.
"I personally think that by testing students for drugs, it will cause a backlash on the administration and will increase drug use as the students will try to revolt against the school," the student wrote.
A former Aurora student, with a sibling still in the district, stated, "Our drug problem at Aurora is mostly marijuana, which is becoming legal in many places. Being out of high school I have learned that many more adults and parents smoke than students, and there are many benefits to smoking. Now if we test for this – something that takes about 30 days to get out of your system – we are going to force kids to find other outlets or even drugs to replace the marijuana. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, etc. … drugs that get out of your system within a few days."
Alternatives to the proposed testing program that were suggested include options such as placing vaping radars in school bathrooms, and increasing random drug sniffing dog searches around cars, lockers and backpacks.
A draft of the policy and some frequently asked questions can be found on the district’s website at www.aurora-schools.org under "Quick Links" on the left side of the home page.
Reporter Briana Barker can be reached at 330-541-9432, firstname.lastname@example.org or @brianabarker1.