The number of city students tested positive for having drugs or alcohol in their system dropped by almost eight-percent in the 2016-17 school year, according to data released by the Paterson Public Schools earlier in the month.
141 students tested positive for having drugs in their system in 2016-17 compared to 153 the previous year. 186 students were tested for drugs in 2016-17. 45 tests came back negative, according to data.
Some students tested positive for marijuana, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter drugs, according to the district. Others students brought alcohol, marijuana, unauthorized over-the-counter drugs, and drug paraphernalia to their school buildings.
In three cases, students were found using multiple substances. Five students had to be sent to hospital. And one student was found with and dealing K2 synthetic marijuana inside a school building.
School board members were given a presentation by Kathy Lepore, supervisor of substance abuse awareness at the district, last week. Her presentation highlighted some of the measures the district has taken to reduce the numbers.
For example, the district has school sponsored activities where speakers from the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Straight and Narrow, the Paterson Municipal Alliance, and Paterson community policing unit discuss the consequences and dangers of drug use and distribution. Students are taught refusal skills.
The district also works with various local and county organizations like the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA) to discourage drug and alcohol use among students.
Some school officials have said the persistently high number of positive cases can be traced back to the layoff of substance abuse counselors at the district. The number of SACs in the district dropped from 24 in 2009-10 to 11. Since then, the district has had, on average, more than 100 positive cases every year. The 11 counselors service 32 schools, according to Lepore.
In 2007-8, the district had 50 positive cases. This was the lowest since substance abuse data has been kept.
Acting superintendent Eileen Shafer has hired two additional substance abuse counselors for the 2017-18 school year in hopes of further reducing the drug use numbers.
Last year’s 153 positive case was described as “alarming.” It was the highest number of positive cases in 16 years.