June 20, 2017 -- At a meeting of the North Shore Board of Education on Thursday June 15, Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick laid out the general procedures for implementing Preventure, a program that is intended to identify students with personality and temperament traits that researchers say put them at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse. The Superintendent’s explanation took place during a board discussion over whether to give permission to board counsel to change some of the language and finalize a contract with the Australian developer of the program.
Preventure, which has also been used in Canada, involves administering a survey to students that looks for one or more of four specific characteristics - impulsivity, sensation seeking, anxiety sensitivity, and negative thinking.
Students who test one standard deviation above normal in any of those areas are considered at risk. With that information in hand, counseling and other services would be offered to the students to help them develop coping strategies.
At last Thursday’s meeting, Dr. Melnick explained that the program would cost about $8,000 and the survey would be administered to 8th and 9th graders whose parents had given consent.
At the May 4th school board meeting, Dr. Melnick stated that the district’s legal counsel was looking into whether the survey could be mandatory for all students. In response to questions from Northwordnews Thursday night, Dr. Melnick said that the attorney had advised against mandating that the the test be administered to all students in the two grades.
For students who do test positive, the Superintendent explained later, the school social worker would meet with the parents and the student to discuss the results and to consider a plan of action. Parental permission would be required for the school to provide any counseling or other services.
During the Board discussion, Trustee Marianne Russo, who had raised concerns about protecting the privacy of students at the early May meeting, said that even though participation in the program is voluntary, there was a possibility that the confidentiality of survey results could potentially be breached.
Dr. Melnick said that no information would be entered into a computer or digitized eliminating the possibility that it could be obtained as a result of a hacking and less likely for it to be accidentally released. Additionally, he said that it would not be a part of a student’s file or shared with anyone beyond the child, the parents and the social worker.
Trustee Russo said that she believed it was important to have parent informational meetings in advance of conducting the program. “It’s not just consent,” she said, “but informed consent” that should be required.
Dr. Melnick agreed, and said that meetings would be held.
Trustee David Ludmar said that he shared some of Trustee Russo’s concerns regarding protecting the privacy of students.
The Board voted postpone action on the contract until more information was acquired regarding the language of the agreement.
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