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County in Ohio offers volunteer drug testing to students

Updated: Wednesday, May 21 2014, 06:17 PM EDT

WTOV9.com
COLUMBUS Ohio -- Drug testing in school.
One Central Ohio community is trying a new approach to keeping students from getting hooked on heroin.  
At Grant Middle School, they're making changes they hope will keep kids from getting addicted by pushing a "Prevention Not Punishment" program and offering drug testing to students.
"I am very scared that one of my friends will do that but I just cross my fingers they don't," Marion seventh grader Cali Parish said. "(I pray) that they make the good choice not to."
School Resource Officer Dave Dunaway says so far about 150 kids have voluntarily promised to stay off drugs and have agreed to random drug tests to prove it.
"It is being responsible for themselves," Dunaway said. "We are putting these kids where they are making this pledge, 'I am not gonna do this, and I am gonna keep drug free.'"
Before students sign this pledge, they have a chance to win an iPad and other incentives. Leaders hope it won't be the only reason why kids sign up.
Ashley Hall said she used heroin in high school and is now in rehab at Maryhaven, a healthcare facility specializing in treatment for people with addictive and mental illness in Columbus.  Hall says she would like to see more schools launch programs like the one in Marion that keep kids accountable.
"I feel like the kids signing up for that aren't just going to be the ones that don't use," Hall said. "I feel there will be kids reaching out for help."
Teachers say students deal with a lot of peer pressure, so they think the "Prevention Not Punishment" program provides teens with a credible excuse to say no to drugs.
"Maybe they can't reach out to their parents, saying they need help and so this is their way they don't have to keep asking," parent Melanie Parish said. "It's going to show up."
In the drug-free pledge, screening results -- positive and negative -- go only to parents, not to the school or police. People there say it's time to empower kids and not just talk.
"Using heroin, even for the first time, can result in death," Maryhaven Executive Director Paul Coleman said.
While Marion's program is modeled after one in Clark County, other Central Ohio districts are looking at how this school and these teens are making a difference.
"I hope it goes across Ohio," Parish said.
There is no cost to the school or parents for the testing.  The program is paid for by money confiscated from Marion County drug arrests.

County in Ohio offers volunteer drug testing to students


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