Pickerington Times-Sun

Tyler's Light seeks 'voluntary drug testing' in local schools

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Tyler's Light leaders hope to convince local school officials to allow students to participate in a voluntary drug-testing program proponents said they believe it is another tool to keep kids safe.

No agreements are in place, but Tyler's Light Founder and President Wayne Campbell said he hopes a voluntary drug-testing and rewards program might soon be available for students in the Pickerington Local School District and the Lancaster City Schools.

Campbell last week said he's had preliminary discussions with officials from both districts.

He said he hopes they'll open their doors to a program initiated by Drug Free Clubs of America, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit organization that coordinates the testing program with school districts.

"We would like to institute their program locally," Campbell said.

"It's a voluntary drug-testing program," he said.

"The kids sign up for a year, and they're card-carrying members."

Campbell said he'd like permission to launch the program in both of Pickerington's high schools, as well as Lancaster's lone high school.

He said districts in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas also have extended it to middle schools.

Where the program is administered, students obtain their parents' consent to join their local Drug Free Club.

They then submit to a urine drug test upon joining the club, and they agree to be subjected to a random test at some point later in the school year.

If students stay drug free, they remain in the club and can receive perks such as free admission to school sporting events, half-price prom tickets and discounts at local businesses.

If a student fails a drug test, his or her parents are notified and the student is offered resources for drug counseling or other assistance.

They also are kicked out of the club until they can show through a test that they've stopped using drugs.

"It's student-driven and the schools don't have any liability," Campbell said. "I think it's a good program."

Campbell acknowledged 100 percent student participation isn't likely.

He said typically only 10 to 15 percent of participating districts' student bodies agree to join their clubs, initially.

However, he noted that nearly 65 percent of students at Covington (Ky.) Catholic School now are participating.

"Is it the answer, no," Campbell said. "It's a piece.

"(Drug prevention) has to come from all different angles."

There are costs to students who take part in the program to offset the costs of drug tests, which typically are administered by local health centers or hospitals.

Those costs vary depending on districts, and Campbell said donations from groups such as Tyler's Light and area businesses help to supplement the effort.

"You want a little buy-in from (students)," he said. "It would be a nominal fee.

"It's not a profit-making endeavor," Campbell said. "We just need to find the right price point."

As of last week, the Pickerington district was in transition with Superintendent Rob Walker set to retire and new Superintendent Dr. Valerie Browning-Thompson scheduled to take the helm Friday, Aug. 1.

Browning-Thompson last week said she had not had discussions with Tyler's Light or district officials about the voluntary drug testing proposal.

She said a district official she believed has been involved in the talks was out of the office.

In the meantime, Campbell said he remained hopeful the program could be initiated locally.

"We just have to get a school to say 'yes' and then we can run with it," he said. "We're hoping to offer it this fall."

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