Arcadia High School will begin a voluntary drug-testing program for athletes and student government leaders when school begins today, making it one of the few schools in Southern California with such a program.
About 600 students, all athletes except for 18 student government leaders, will be asked to participate in a weekly lottery in which five names will be chosen for urinalysis tests.
The results of the tests, to be administered by Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, will be revealed only to the students and their parents.
"This program will provide a reason for students to say no when they are dared to experiment with drugs at parties or other activities," said Jerry Barshay, school principal. "A student volunteering for the program will establish the fact that he is an independent thinker and capable of being a leader among his peers."
Student body President Lisa Hudson and other student leaders agreed that the program will make it easier for students to resist peer pressure to take drugs and that, although it probably will not help drug abusers, it will help students who are undecided about drug use.
"If the program catches on we will get a large percentage of participation and it might become the 'in' thing to do, like a club on the campus to join," said Hudson, who plans to sign up for the program.
Kelly McEntee, a senior on the school's executive council, said she too hopes the program "will become the 'in' thing to do, but it might take a while before that happens. I'm not looking for instant success but it is a good first step."
"I haven't yet thought about whether I will sign up for the program," she added. "I want to talk to my parents first, and if they want me too, I probably will."
Robert Kladisko, president of the school board, is so enthusiastic about the program, which was approved unanimously by the board last week after a yearlong study, that he has agreed to be tested and may challenge the other board members to do the same.
"Substance abuse won't go away, and this is something we should have been doing a long time ago and I'm glad we are doing it now," Kladisko said.
Kladisko said that football Coach Dick Salter first suggested that such a program be started at Arcadia because coaches at Edison High School in Huntington Beach thought the program there was a success.
Originally, Arcadia school officials had considered asking only athletes to take part, following the lead of other schools that have limited drug testing programs.
But Hudson, the student body president, thought other students should be encouraged to participate.
"I asked why only the athletes, and the answer was that a difference could be seen in their physical performance," she said. "But the athletes say, 'Why is it always just us?' so both groups were included."
Barshay is in favor of including the other students because it will not "look like athletes are the only ones who have the problem in our society."
Hudson said she is glad "to know Arcadia is doing something and acting quickly to get the program under way, although I hope this doesn't mean people will say Arcadia has a worse drug problem than other schools."
She did express concern about the possibility that parents might pressure their children to participate. "If parents understand the purpose of the program, they might encourage their kids, but I hope there won't be pressure because that defeats the purpose."
Brad Scott, a co-captain of the football team, said he did not think parents will have to put pressure on his teammates because all of them have indicated that they will volunteer.
But he did express concern about inaccurate test results.
"The school is reviewing the possibility of a repeat test if one of us gets a positive reading," he said. "And when you fill out the form you list if you are on any specific medication so the doctor knows if that has affected the test."
The 600 students eligible for the program will submit forms to the school. On Oct. 1, the forms will be sent to Methodist Hospital, which will administer the urine test for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, stimulants, depressants and PCP.
Selected at Random
The hospital will place a number on each form and on each Friday five will be selected at random. Those students will be notified on Sunday and asked to go to the hospital the next day for the test. Students and their parents will be notified of the results two days later.
The numbers will remain in the lottery, so some students may be tested more than once while others may never be tested.
Because of the cost of the tests and the inability of the hospital to handle the tests of all students, only 600 of the school's 2,200 students will be asked to take part. The non-athletes eligible are the 18 members of the executive council, which includes the student body president, class presidents and student senators from each class.