Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Student Substance Abuse Said to Soar

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Student Substance Abuse Said to Soar

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- The number of students in the city school district who tested positive for drugs or alcohol jumped by more than 70 percent over the first six months of the current academic year, according to official statistics.

Those figures put the district on pace to have the highest tally of positive drug and alcohol tests in more than 15 years.

From July through December, the district said, 72 of the 86 drug and alcohol tests done on students came back positive. Over the same period in 2014, 42 of 58 students tested were deemed positive, officials said.

The district's highest number of positive drug and alcohol tests in recent years was 130 in 2010-11, according to public records. For 2014-15, the total number of positive tests was 109 and the year before that it was 97.

District spokeswoman Terry Corallo said that the number of positive drug tests involved a tiny percentage of the district's student population of more than 25,000 students.

"No increase in substance abuse is good news, but we should keep this year's increase in perspective as the district's total student enrollment has also increased," she said.

Under state guidelines, the district includes among the positive results all instances in which students refuse to submit to a test as well as cases in which they are found in possession of drugs or alcohol. In 12 instances, students refused tests and in eight cases they were found in possession of illegal substances, according to the district.

"As you know because you report on this weekly, the drug problem in this city is very serious," Corallo said when Paterson Press asked her about the data on student drug tests.

"Our students' safety is very important, which is why when a student tests positive for substance abuse, the parents/guardians are immediately informed and are provided information and resources for their child," Corallo added.

Corallo said the district provides parents with referrals to social service agencies and treatment centers.

The three academies at Eastside High School accounted for more than one-third of the positive test results, with 14 at its school of government, seven at the technology academy and four at the culinary program, according to the district's biannual report on drug and alcohol testing. …

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