After spring break, students in Carroll ISD will face a different kind of test along with their final exams — the possibility of random drug screenings.
Following years of discussion, the district is introducing a drug testing program for all students on four middle and high school campuses, from 7th through 12th grades.
"We want to make sure the students have an opportunity to say no, a reason to say no," Carroll ISD spokesperson Julie Thannum said.
Wednesday night, the district held the first of two informational meetings to share details about the program with parents. The district says it is a two year pilot program that is entirely voluntary. Parents must opt their students in to the testing pool, and random tests will screen about 10 percent of all the students who are part of the program.
"We're not sure exactly what kind of participation rate we'll have," Thannum said.
The program differs from most other districts in North Texas. Many districts have mandatory drug screening programs for students who are part of athletics or other extracurricular programs. The Carroll ISD program is just the second district in the area to provide testing to all students and parents.
"We really wanted a program that opened it up," Thannum said.
The program is offered at no cost to students or parents. The district will cover the cost of urine testing, which is approximately $23 per sample. The panel tests for alcohol and ten different types of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, meth, and opioids.
Carroll ISD said that positive test results alone will not result in school discipline, and the information will not be kept in students academic files. Students who test positive will be required to meet with their parents on campus and will be provided with information on drug counseling and other resources.
"There's nothing punitive and no consequences from that," said Thannum. "It will be maintained, confidential with your family, your counselor or your administrator with you campus."
Teen drug use has actually been declining in recent years, but a study this week from the CDC found soaring rates of tobacco use among teenagers. The CDC said tobacco use rose 38 percent among teens from 2017 to 2018, which they attribute to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping among students.
Carroll ISD's drug testing program will not screen for tobacco use, but the district said it is actively considering adding it to the testing panel. It would require an additional cost of about $1 per sample.
"We have not made the decision, that's not one of the ten items yet, but I do think that's something we'll be discussing with the school board in the near future," Thannum said.