Vestavia Hills schools launch new drug testing program

Hundreds of parents are taking a step to make sure their child says no to drugs. Vestavia Hills middle and high schools have launched a drug testing program.Over the last six years, the school system says at least four Vestavia High School graduates died from heroin or opiate drug overdoses. The new program is voluntary for families. If parents sign their children up, the students will be drug tested once each semester. The tests will happen on unannounced days. The program is open to grades seven to twelve.More than 600 families have already taken the first step to sign up. "It's a safety net because it gives him an easy way to say no," said Julie Ellis, parent of a tenth grade son at Vestavia High School.Ellis signed him up for the school's new drug testing program."He's on the track team," she explained. "He's a great student, good kid. Not under any suspicions."Ellis says she knows the drugs are accessible and wants her son to be prepared."It's not a question of if. It's a question of when he's faced with a choice to make," Ellis said. "And when he's in that situation, I want to make it as easy for him as possible. I want him to be able to say no, my mother's crazy. She signed me up for that drug testing program.""We're very surprised and pleased with the reaction we've seen from the community and from our students so far," said Whit McGhee with the Vestavia Hills school system. Thursday is the last day to sign up. More than 600 parents have started the process."We're really grateful to have such a proactive community in Vestavia Hills that's serious not just about talking about this problem, but doing something that's concrete and tangible about it," added McGhee. If students test positive, there is no punishment from the school system."What we do is the medical review agency that runs the program will contact the family to let them know that their student has tested positive and then from there, the medical review officer will provide the family with resources to help their student get clean," said McGhee.