Right Start History
The History of Right Start and Secure Test Results
From Dr. George B. Elder - Founder
"In 2004 I became Headmaster of Tuscaloosa Academy in Tuscaloosa, AL. I had been researching the Drug Free School concept for a couple of years and had visited schools that were using drug testing to hold their students accountable. I had tried for 28 years to protect my students from the destructive behavior of illegal drug use and alcohol abuse through informative and educational programs and eventually realized that it simply wasn’t enough. It finally dawned on me that my students when at the party were not thinking about the substance abuse course or even the guest speakers who told powerful but tragic stories of futures ruined, families destroyed and irreversible health problems brought on by their decision to use drugs , abuse alcohol or both.
I found that many schools were using urine testing as a deterrent. However, the more I learned about urine testing the less comfortable I became with the science, the sample collection process and the effectiveness of the programs. I learned that most of the drugs identified by urine testing, while numerous, remained in body fluids, blood, urine or saliva for only 3 days on average. The results looked good and even made the program appear effective while the educators remained frustrated with the little respect the students had for the urine test. I learned that there were numerous ways to beat the urine test and adulterate the sample and that the only reliable urine test required an observed collection. I lost faith in the ability of urine testing to provide the real accountability that I needed to impact my student’s decisions at the party and I could not see my putting a student in a bathroom alone at school with any adult.
Thankfully, I found several schools that were using a relatively new science to hold their students accountable and that identified drug use for 3 months and longer, could not be beaten, was not personally invasive and was respected by young and old alike: Psychemedics hair testing. I found that this laboratory enjoys a reputation second to none among the scientific community, is the most experienced in this particular science in the world and has a flawless legal track record. It is trusted by many Fortune 500 companies, major police forces, hundreds of schools and numerous foreign countries. I felt this science could provide the accountability that I was seeking and that I would be able to sleep with full confidence in this science and the process. I found that Psychemedics was worthy of my trust and the implementation of this program changed my school. I wasn’t sure how my students would react to this new deterrent to drug use but I believed that most would go along with the plan. My students researched the lab, the accuracy and reliability of the science and the amazing track record both legally and commercially. They knew this was a game changer and that there was no way around this new drug abuse prevention program. I knew we had some drug use like all other schools today, but I felt that those who used were in the minority and that most of my students wanted no part of this unhealthy and potentially deadly behavior. I was pretty certain that all my students needed was a little help at the party and I was right. In addition, we were not tolerant of losing even one to this menace. Anything short of protecting all of my students became unacceptable.
With full support of our Board of Trustees, we notified our school community in March, 2004 that upon returning to school in the fall all 7-12 grade students, our entire faculty and our Trustees would be drug tested using Psychemedics hair tests. We often talked of being a family but this time we were determined to walk the talk. We tested everyone in the first 3 weeks of school because we knew summer was the most dangerous time for student drug use. My students were sent the clear message that in order to have a negative drug test when the year started that they must stop their use before the summer began. We gave those considering starting their drug use a powerful reason not to go down that road.
It worked! Our students seemed to relax more as though a pressure had been taken away. They no longer feared the weekends. They were going to be at the party but they did not want to be faced with peer pressure to use drugs and/or abuse alcohol. This gave them an acceptable out well beyond their control. “I can’t because my school tests all of us with Psychemedics hair tests.” Amazingly many of the users knew what that meant: virtual certainty of detection of drug use over the previous 3 months. Real accountability backed by real science results in real behavior change almost every single time. Our positive rate the first year was less than 1% and it remained that way each year while I was there. I understand that this rate still holds today. This program had a huge impact over the last 12 years: increased enrollment, fewer disciplinary issues, fewer alcohol incidents and increased esprit de corps. Our school was different, not like other schools and we were proud of it!
Because we were the first school in our area to take this important step to protect our students, I had been asked to speak at a few conferences about our drug testing program and the amazing deterrence it provided. One day I received a call from the CEO of Psychemedics asking me to have lunch with him and then join him for a presentation to a group of fraternities at the University of Alabama. He asked me to speak to them as well. I asked him the topic of his presentation. When he told me “Drug testing” I couldn’t believe it! College fraternities have long been a safe haven for drug use and alcohol abuse. Within the walls of the fraternity house those desiring to risk their health, lives and reputation have a private place to use, a ready supply, training and encouragement to join in. I agreed to speak to the fraternity leadership and after the presentation I was offered a job with Psychemedics. I accepted the position of Vice President for Schools and Colleges and began consulting with schools across America and a few overseas.
One of the fraternity chapters to which I had spoken chose to hire Psychemedics to implement a Drug Free Chapter Program with the results going to the parents. The chapter soon realized that there was a need for someone to administer the program. This included test scheduling, communication with chapter members and House Corporation and communicating with parents regarding results. Because of my 30+ years as Head of School, Psychemedics agreed to permit me to administer this program for a year. Dramatic changes in the fraternity took place from the beginning but in less than 2 years this previously troubled chapter was recognized as the Most Improved Chapter at the University of Alabama, received the highest award given by the national fraternity, went from numerous arrests for drugs and intoxication to two years with no substance abuse issues. My favorite result was that this chapter won the Grade Point Average Trophy for the first time in 14 years. Real accountability supported by Psychemedics hair testing moved this chapter from possible charter revocation to being, once again, among the leading fraternities at Alabama. This chapter was the first to make a meaningful change in the drug use within their chapter and soon others followed.
As the need for consulting and program administration of ongoing Drug Free Chapter Programs grew and with the full blessing of Psychemedics, I created Secure Test Results. STR was started and it remains a family business with one mission, to help leaders of tomorrow make good decisions regarding drug use and alcohol abuse. STR now provides drug test consulting or full program administration services for fraternities on more than 22 college campuses. It is saving lives, families and futures all across America. One of the vital responsibilities that goes along with program administration for Drug Free Chapter Programs is to inform parents of their son’s or daughter’s drug use. Drugs identified in fraternity testing have included marijuana, cocaine, meth, prescription meds and even heroin. At the time of this writing I am seeing an upswing of cocaine use among fraternity men. One parent, crushed with the information that their son was using both marijuana and cocaine asked for a favor. He was very pleased that his son had joined a fraternity that had a Drug Free Chapter Program supported by Psychemedics hair testing but he knew that the current policy only required random testing and he no longer could take the risk that his son might not be included. He asked me to test his son when he came back to school the next semester. I said yes immediately, not knowing how or if I could do private individual testing with the results going only to the parents. I found a way and this gave birth to STR’s signature program, The Right Start.
Parents in high schools where I had implemented Psychemedics drug testing also asked if there were ways to continue the testing and accountability when their students began the freshman year in college. In college drug use and alcohol abuse is not merely an invitation but an expectation. The Right Start has the power to provide college freshmen the “out” at the party when they need it, the same piece of mind they had enjoyed during high school and insurance that the huge investment in a college education is secure. Secure Test Results, either through the Drug Free Chapter Program, the Drug Free School Program, our PRO (Parent Results Only) Program or The Right Start, is the service that helps students, parents and educational institutions stay focused on health, wellness, character, excellence, achievement, safety and a bright future. Lives, families and futures are being saved everyday! We no longer have to risk losing even one!"
“Every parent who may one day struggle with their child’s drug addiction, dependence on alcohol or worse would have given anything to have known their child needed help in time to do something about it.”
Dr. George B. Elder