A voluntary testing program is being rolled out this month at Huntington Beach High School in an effort to fight drug use among students.
The school's Parent Teacher Student Assn. contracted with Hired Power — a Huntington Beach-based organization that deals with addiction and mental health issues — to test 10 random students a month, according to PTSA President Gina Gleason.
The program stems from the death of Huntington student Tyler Macleod, who, according to his parents, died last year of a heroin overdose. His death sparked the need for someone to address the issue, Gleason said.
"I'm really hoping that we can make a huge difference in the life of these kids, and make them realize that we're not just saying these things because we don't want them to have any fun," she said. "We are saying this because we know that things are different now, and one poor choice could be the end for them."
Edison High School is the only other school in the district to have a voluntary drug testing program, Gleason said.
Forms were given to parents before of the beginning of the school year asking if they would like to volunteer their child for the tests. Gleason said she got back more than 1,500 forms, out of a student population of about 3,000.
The tests, at a cost of $25 per student, will look at 12 different substances, including marijuana, ecstasy and opiates.
The program is being funded by the PTSA and other donors, with a large portion from the Macleod family, Gleason said.
She said test results will be given only to parents, not the school.
Gleason said the increase in drug use could stem from this generation of high school students pushing the limits. She said that when she was young, going on a simple scavenger hunt around the neighborhood would suffice as entertainment, but something so simple doesn't seem to please teens anymore.
"You can't just go to a party and drink a beer," she said. "Now you have to go to a party and drink a vodka and Red Bull or a beer with a pill. Everything is kind of one-upped, and that's kind of the way kids are now. Everything has to be a little bit bigger or better. … It's like good isn't good enough. It has to be outlandish."
Don Austin, assistant superintendent with the Huntington Beach Union High School District, is supportive of the effort and said testing is "another piece of the whole puzzle of how we better support and protect our kids."
"The purpose of the voluntary drug and alcohol testing programs is not to catch kids. It's to give kids another reason to decline invitations to use drugs and alcohol," he said.
Austin said an organization doesn't need district approval to conduct such a program.
He said that he doesn't know if the district would carry out an action like this in the other high schools and added that most of these programs have been run through PTSAs or other organizations.