School strenghtens anti-drugs policy with student, staff drug testing

by: Carl Willis Updated:

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COLLEGE PARK, Ga. - A metro Atlanta private school is toughening its anti-drug policy by initiating drug testing for students, staff and governing board members.

Prestigious Woodward Academy, located in College Park, is joining the growing number of private schools making the decision to randomly drug test those involved with the institution.

The president of Woodward Academy told Channel 2's Carl Willis the move is for prevention not punishment.

"Research has been released that shows drug use among teenagers is at an all-time high," said President Stuart Gulley.

Those same studies also show a significant increase among students enrolled in independent institutions.

That is why Gulley, said Woodward's high school will begin random drug-testing next year.

"Our hope is that by having the expectation of drug testing, students will be encouraged to say no to peers when given the opportunity to take drugs or alcohol," Gulley said.

In a given year Gulley hopes to test about 40 percent of the high school population, 25 percent of the employees, and 25 percent of governing board members.

A first offense could land a students 15 hours of community service.

A second failed drug test would end in an opportunity to withdraw or a dismissal.

Gulley said only a handful of parents have voiced opposition.

"There has been the request for an opt-out, but we have concluded that would just render the program meaningless," he said.

School officials point to a recent study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University as good reason to make the change

In 2011, 36 percent of private school students who participated in the survey said their school was "drug-infected." That figure rose to 54 percent in the past year.

Gulley said he's heard about more instances of drug abuse recently, even on his campus where 100 percent of its high school students go on to college.

"We wanted to try to understand why did we have so many anecdotal reports about drug use despite what we were doing in education," he said. "(We) just came to the conclusion that there are drug use issues everywhere in society."

Gulley said the changes are slated to go into effect August of next year.

There is no set schedule, but He said around 12 people will be tested every other week.