In response to parents seeking help in keeping their kids away from drugs, Suffolk County and school officials distributed 350 free home drug test kits Monday night to parents at a meeting at Patchogue-Medford High School.
"We are going to empower the parents," said Suffolk County Legis. Jack Eddington, who proposed the drug test kit program to the school district. "We are going to stem the tide of this epidemic."
The meeting aimed to educate parents and guardians about the dangers and warning signs of drug abuse, as well as to enlist their help in confronting their children about their drug habits, Eddington said.
The urine drug kits, made by Dallas-based Drug Test Your Teen, will detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates, amphetamines and benzodiazepines.
"I'm here as a concerned parent," said Laurie Hummel, 39, of Medford, who took a kit to monitor her teenage daughter. "It's important to trust, but it's also important to question. I'm probably going to use the test when my daughter's not expecting it, maybe after a weekend out with friends, on a Sunday night."
Victor Ciappa, father of 18-year-old Plainedge student Natalie Ciappa, who died of a heroin overdose in 2008, said he planned to tell parents to do whatever it takes to check if their children are abusing drugs.
"It's bigger than trust. It's your child's life," he said at a news conference Monday in Hauppauge. He appeared with Eddington and Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association president Jeff Fraley, whose group donated the money to purchase the kits. Another 350 drug kits will be available by registering online, Fraley said.
Marco and Maria Castillo of Medford, among the nearly 100 parents who attended the meeting, said they were "definitely taking a test home tonight," and that their 16-year-old son knows it. "We're worried about painkillers," Marco Castillo said, adding, "because drugs are always changing and different from when we were younger."
Eddington said parents at the meeting would be given a list of available community and health resources if their children's test results are positive.
The meeting comes just days after two 16-year-old girls were arrested at Smithtown High School West.
Last Monday around 11:45 a.m., a teacher caught the girls in a bathroom stall snorting a powder through a rolled-up dollar bill, Suffolk police said yesterday.
“She heard a snorting sound,” Fourth Precinct Sgt. Daniel Olsen said of the teacher. “She saw four legs under one of the stalls.”
The teacher climbed on the toilet of the next-door stall and saw the girls snorting a powder on a calculator cover, Olsen said. The substance is being analyzed, he said.
Both girls were charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and loitering. One girl was charged with possession of a hypodermic needle.
Smithtown superintendent Ed Ehmann said the girls are juniors. They were suspended for five days, pending a superintendent's hearing, he said.
With Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Katie Serignese