BELVIDERE, N.J. (CBS 2) — A proposal to conduct random drug tests of young students in one New Jersey town is raising some eyebrows.
Students at Belvidere Elementary School could be adding drug testing to their list of lessons when they move into middle school.
The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on a plan to randomly test sixth, seventh and eighth graders to see if they are under the influence of drugs. School administrators said they were confident the proposal would pass.
Elementary School Principal Sandra Szabocsik said school officials want to use the testing “as a deterrent.”
“We’re hoping that the students if they’re at say a party or someone’s house or just hanging out somewhere, that they’ll say ‘I don’t want to get involved in drinking or using any drug because tomorrow could be a drug testing day,'” she told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
The program is voluntary and both parents and students must consent. School officials said it was important to note that if a student tested positive, they would not be suspended or have the results sent to the police.
Instead, those students would get counseling or even be referred to a rehab facility.
A number of parents and students in the close-knit town said they would be signing up for the testing.
“It takes the pressure off of them that they have an easy out to say ‘no. No I don’t want to do this, I’m afraid I’ll be tested,'” parent and teacher Noelle Kornegay said.
Drug testing is currently mandatory at Belvidere High School for students who park on campus, join clubs or participate in athletics.
“It’s been working well in the sense that parents and students understand the choices they make and are able to make better ones,” high school assistant principal Joe Flynn said.
“I don’t think it’s to really punish kids as much as to let them realize what they’re doing and the effects it has on their life,” sophomore Jim Debenedetto said.
The district said it wants to convey a similar message to its students — that the tests are not about punishment, but about getting help to those who may be experimenting with drugs.