VALPARAISO | Porter County schools got a $15,000 donation from the Porter County Substance Abuse Council to help fund random drug testing.
"The timing of our newest grant is important for a multitude of reasons," PCSAC Chairwoman Paula Dranger said during the announcement of the grant at the Valparaiso Public Library. "First, because it is the beginning of the school year, it serves as a good reminder to parents to consistently and purposefully promote the message that a drug-free lifestyle is a lifestyle that is healthy and opens more opportunities in life."
Dranger said the PCSAC has been promoting random drug testing in the schools, and districts can apply for funds to pay half the cost.
East Porter County Schools Superintendent Rod Gardin said it costs his district between $6,000 and $8,000 a year.
"Because our schools are small, almost all the students are involved in extracurricular activities and could be subject to being tested," Gardin said. "We have found some students who were affected. Our program is not punitive. It is about finding a solution to the conditions that caused the drug use."
Valparaiso Community Schools started random testing this week, and Portage Township Schools Superintendent E. Ric Frataccia said drug testing is now under discussion in his district.
Porter Township Schools Superintendent Stacey Schmidt said the amount of testing each year depends on the pool of money the board is able to provide. The PCSAC grant will double that pool.
"Whatever you think of this program, one thing is for sure and that is it will change the conversation," said Dranger. "Prevention is key to stopping the influx of drugs and turning the tide in our county. It is a fallacy and naive to believe there is only one answer or one approach," Dranger said.
Every county has a substance abuse council as prescribed by state law. Funding comes from a $200 fee added to each drug conviction and drug interdiction.
The council disbursed more than $110,000 in 2012, but Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes, a member of the PCSAC board, said the fund has collected over $140,000 this year with more than a month left in the fiscal year.