White House drug policy office director visits Milford

Milford Schools earned a visit from the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy John Walters Sept. 18 after implementing a random drug testing policy for the current school year.

Walters, who had sent representatives to the school district before due to drug control issues, paid a personal visit to the district to discuss the random tests and learn more about public sentiment concerning it.

“He was in town for some other things, but we had met with him last spring to talk about the undercover agent investigation,” said Valerie Miller, Communications Coordinator for Milford Schools. “At that time, he had encouraged drug testing. Now that we’ve implemented the program, he wanted to follow up and find out what the opinions of the parents and students were. He wanted to know how the district was implementing the program.”

The testing policy began this year, and will involves students who participate in certain programs or privileges. Originally, the testing was to involve any student who applied for a parking permit and any student involved in programs such as a sports team or even the band. Now, however, the policy has changed to only include parking permit applicants and extra-curricular students.

“The adjustments that they made to our current policy is that extra curricular and drivers are who are tested,” said Miller. “When it started, it also included co-curricular programs like band. Now, co-curricular is not in the program, but extra curricular like sports, student council, National Honor Society or even the chess club are involved.”

Miller said that the visit was in part to learn about the district’s policy in an effort to determine a better way to implement random drug testing in other high schools.

Miller said that Walters has promoted the measure, and wants to refine it for use in more school districts. To that end, Walters spoke with a few students involved in the testing program, as well as to parents with students involved in the program.

“There were a couple of parents there and several students, and he wanted their opinions and reactions to the program,” said Miller. “There were two parents and there was one who was definitely in favor of the program. The other parent was not as supportive. She had questions, and felt it was a trust issue where you indicate that you tell students you don’t trust them. The students he talked with were all supportive. They said they liked the idea and had nothing to hide. Obviously, that’s not how all students would think.”

Miller said that Walters encouraged the continuation of the program during his visit, going so far as to label drug use a disease. His hope, said Miller, is to address the issue at an earlier age so that students are able to avoid the pitfalls associated with drug use.

“I know he brought a certificate of appreciation for the district for taking the active role,” said Miller. “He was there to encourage the district. The message he conveyed was that drug abuse needs to be addressed at an early age. If you can avoid getting students involved with drugs early, you can help prevent a list of problems as they become adults. You avoid all of those problems that follow people to adulthood. He said it should be looked on as a disease that needs treated early.”