By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – It's no secret that drugs and alcohol are more prevalent in today's society more than ever and unfortunately, that pertains to schools as well. As part of its mission to empower Westborough students with knowledge and skills to make healthy choices, the Westborough School Committee's Policy Sub-committee throughout the year has been reviewing all of its policies, including the Chemical Health policy and the Drug/Alcohol Testing policy. One change recently made will authorize saliva tests in addition to breathalyzers, (which the district has allowed for years) on students who are suspected of using drugs or alcohol.
Ilyse Levine-Kanji, the school committee's chair, stressed that the policy changes are not due to a “perceived problem or uptick in risky behavior.” They were merely part of an ongoing process, she said.
“There's no magic in how this all came up – it's just one in a series of many policies that are being reviewed and this one just happened to come up now,” she said.
Levine-Kanji said the sub-committee's mission is to clarify the policies so that all students and parents clearly understand the process; what constitutes a violation and what penalties might be assessed.
Adding the saliva test is just another way to help monitor situations where it may be suspected that a student has used alcohol or drugs. Levine-Kanji noted that since the creation of the original policy in 2004, breathalyzers have only been used a “handful of times.”
“The tests (breathalyzers and saliva) will only be used if there is a real concern and if there is a reasonable suspicion,” she added. “It's not done lightly, not done randomly and it's not done to check everyone, only if there is a concern that a student is acting unwell or impaired.”
The policy does allow for students to refuse to be tested. Protocols are set in place for if the student agrees or disagrees to be tested; in either case, parents are always notified.
Drug and alcohol policies testing are now standard in many Massachusetts school districts. And in fact, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) also has a Chemical Health Policy Standard. Athletes who are “found in violation must serve the entire designated loss of eligibility for contests,” according to the MIAA.
The complete Westborough School District policy manual can be found online at http://westborough.ma.schoolwebpages.com/. Go to District Information and then click on WPS Policy Manual.