Random alcohol testing for students began this week at St. Viator High School, officials confirmed.
The program, which was announced by the Arlington Heights Catholic school in August, randomly tests the hairs of 10 to 20 students each week for alcohol consumption. St. Viator has been doing random drug testing since 2007. All students were tested for drug use when the school year started, but random testing that includes screening for alcohol began this week.
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The school is working with Psychemedrics Corp., a Massachusetts-based company that will use a computer program to randomly choose students by ID number. Once selected, a school employee such as a nurse will take about 60 hairs from the back of a student's head and send them overnight to the Psychemedrics laboratory in Los Angeles.
Company officials said the testing is very accurate and will show not only if a student has consumed alcohol and drugs, but also how much of the substance the student has ingested in the past 90 days. Small traces of alcohol, such as communion wine, will not show up on the test.
The hair is tested for alcohol and illegal drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, prescription opiates, methamphetamine and ecstasy. Test results will be sent back to the school within five business days.
St. Viator Principal the Rev. Corey Brost has said a first positive test will result in a meeting between the student, a school counselor, an administrator and parents, but no discipline.
Students who test positive will be required to pay for a second test 90 days later. A second positive test will result in discipline, which officials say will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but could include expulsion. School officials have said that less than 1 percent of drug tests come back positive each year.
Brost previously said the program is preventive, not about getting students in trouble.
"We want to give kids a good reason to say, 'No, I can't drink, St. Viator tests for alcohol,'" he said in August when the program was approved. "We are a Catholic school. It's our goal to help our young people grow spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically, but alcohol impedes growth in all of those areas."
Brost declined to comment further on the program Monday now that it has begun.