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Mandatory drug testing to be implemented in Oklahoma City Catholic high schools

May 15th, 2008
The Sooner Catholic (catharchdioceseokc.org/sooner)

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma (The Sooner Catholic) - Both Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City will implement mandatory random drug testing of the entire student body beginning next fall.

In making the announcement, Bishop McGuinness Principal David Morton and Mount Saint Mary Principal Talita DeNegri called the tests another tool in the effort to help teens make good choices and lead healthy and productive lives.

Both McGuinness and Mount Saint Mary have used groups consisting of students, parents and faculty to study the issue and both received positive responses from surveys asking for input.

“We’re very proud of this policy,” DeNegri said. “It fits the needs of our school and is a proactive step to help kids make good decisions.”

Morton said McGuinness initially looked at drug testing about six years ago, but at that time he admits he did not think much of the idea. As a counselor for many years at the school, he said he originally believed such tests infringed on the rights of the students and eroded the level of trust. He has since changed his mind and now fully supports the effort.

“It’s about help,” Morton said. “It’s not punitive, and it gives kids another chance to say ‘no.’”
He said the data is clear, when a drug test policy is in place, drug use declines. If there is no drug testing, use goes up. “You can’t argue with the data,” DeNegri said.

Toward a healthier lifestyle

Morton said the drug testing fits in perfectly with the school’s expanded focuses on wellness. Both McGuinness and Mount Saint Mary will be adding an extra counselor to their faculty and both are making an even greater commitment to health

and what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Morton said intramural sports are being added at McGuinness and Mount Saint Mary recently dedicated a new fitness center on campus.

In developing their drug-testing policies, the two schools studied more than two dozen schools in Oklahoma and neighboring states. Both McGuinness and Mount Saint Mary will use urine tests and students will be selected randomly each month to participate in the tests. Students and parents must agree to the tests, or they will not be allowed to enroll at the schools. “It’s part of our contract,” DeNegri said.

She said the Mount will test 10 students per month, while Morton said the tests at McGuinness will involve 30 to 35 students per month. The cost for each test is $20 and will be paid by the schools.

If a student does test positive for a substance other than a prescribed medication, the first step would be counseling and an assessment of what other treatment might be necessary.

‘Light that leads you in the right direction’

There is no “three strikes” or similar language in the policies, but Morton and DeNegri agreed that if a child has a serious addiction, the schools could not allow him or her to remain enrolled. The student’s family would need to find more help than the schools can offer, Morton said.

Parental support for the new drug-testing policies has been strong, according to the principals. Students have also been pushing for such a proactive measure. DeNegri described the new policies as “A light that leads you in the right direction.”

She said Sister Catherine Powers, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, and Archbishop Beltran fully support the new policies.

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