Some 141 city public school students were tested for drugs during the last school year; out of that number 97 tested positive for having narcotics in their system, according to a report presented Wednesday evening.
“We’ve had students in possession of alcohol, marijuana, and heroin,” said Kathleen Lepore, supervisor of substance abuse awareness. Lepore said students tested positive for marijuana, alcohol, and K2/Spice, a synthetic marijuana.
Six students were under the influence of K2/Spice, said Lepore. A few students were found to have two drugs in their system at the same time. “In one case a student was positive for marijuana and k2 at the same time,” said Lepore.
The largest number of positive cases came out of John F. Kennedy High School: the academy of Architecture and Construction Trade had 14 positive cases, the most for any particular school; the academy of School of Education and Training had 10 positive cases. And the Urban Leadership Academy had the third most positive cases with nine cases.
Officials would not have been able to catch the students using synthetic marijuana had the district not included it an additional drug screening. “Last year, we added the additional drug screening for K2/Spice,” said James Smith, head of security at the district. “It was a little more expensive but it was well worth it. We would have never known it had we not added the additional drug screening.”
Smith said, now that these six have been caught, the district can render assistance to ensure they do not do drugs in the future.
However, those who are to render that assistance saw their ranks decimated by almost half from a financial crisis the district suffered in 2009-10. The district had 24 student assistance coordinators (SACs), today that’s down to 12.
“This past year, at one point, we had nine, and then we went up to 12,” said Lepore.
School board president Christopher Irving called on the superintendent to strengthen the substance awareness department. “Given what’s happening in our city with the violence and shootings, issues of gangs, I think more than ever, we need to have devoted staff members deployed to schools who can help address the social and emotional and environmental issues,” said Irving.
“What’s the problem in us not being able to address the numbers in that department?” asked Errol Kerr, school board member.
“Money,” answered Donnie Evans, state-appointed district superintendent. “It’s a matter of priorities. What do we want to spend our money on?”
“That’s not a priority for us?” asked Kerr.
“It’s a priority,” answered Evans. “If it wasn’t a priority we wouldn’t have any.”
Irving said the district should slowly increase the number of coordinators by hiring two every year until the department is fully staffed.
Data shows the number of positive cases have declined from 116 in 2012-13 school year to less than 100 in the last school year, the lowest in four years. 2007-2008 was the best year for the district with only 50 positive cases.
“We need to address that issue and we don’t want to push it to the back of the burner,” said Kerr. “It’s a critical issue. A lot of our young people, we are losing them, because of this issue.”