CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- School administrators in Mingo County say they are making a pre-emptive strike against a problem that has become all too prevalent in Southern West Virginia.
Mingo is the latest school district in the state to approve a policy that requires certain public school students to be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol.
The measure, officially approved last month, will cost the Mingo County school board about $15,000 each year and will test student-athletes, students who participate in extracurricular activities and those who drive to school.
Additionally, parents have the option to volunteer their students for the test-selection process, which detects alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.
"We're trying to become an early-intervention agency. Statistically, we see that substance abuse is prevalent in Southern West Virginia. The idea is, if we can intervene at an early age, then maybe we can stop a student from becoming a substance abuser as an adult," said Mingo County Superintendent Randy Keathley.
Only students in the county's two high schools will be tested this year, but the district plans to expand testing to seventh- and eighth-grade students next school year, according to Dreama Dempsey, Mingo County's director of student services.
The county's career and technical students who participate in a new "simulated workplace" program also will be tested, if they operate equipment. Upon graduation, those students will receive a certificate declaring them a "drug-free employee."
The results of positive tests will not be referred to police, following state law. Possible consequences for students include substance-abuse counseling, parent-principal conferences and suspension from extra-curricular activities.
Dempsey said she's heard little pushback from parents about the policy and said the area's history of drug use -- and recent news about corruption -- make it difficult for anyone to argue against it.
Just last week, former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury pleaded guilty in federal court to depriving a drug dealer of his constitutional rights, in an attempt to protect the county's now-deceased sheriff, Eugene Crum, who has been accused of using prescription drugs illegally.
Crum -- who spearheaded a crackdown on the county's prescription pill epidemic -- was shot and killed in April.
"We did not have -- and do not have -- a major problem with drugs in our schools," Dempsey said. "This is more of a preventative approach because of the history of drugs being used in our county."