CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Drug testing teens - a safeguard, or an invasion of privacy? It's a topic teens and parents are talking about in Charlotte County now that a new campaign is making it easier for parents to get answers.
It's called Verify Truth, launched by Drug Free Charlotte County. Parents can pick up a marijuana test kit free of charge to verify their teen is telling the truth. Recent numbers prove there's a growing problem with marijuana and DFCC leaders want to snuff it out.
Kenneth Gau is a parent who would rather know, than wonder about his kids.
"We tested both of them," Gau said. "It's better to be honest and be safe. There's a lot of kids not like that."
He has good to reason to think so. According to a Teen Norms Survey done last year in Charlotte County, more kids are lighting up - not tobacco, but marijuana. 39% of high school students say they've experimented with the drug at least once - up 4% since 2006. Numbers are also up for middle schoolers. Drug Free Charlotte County Executive Director Amity Chandler says kids have gotten the message that tobacco is harmful, but they've yet to understand the same about marijuana.
"What we found is a lot of parents didn't know that drug tests are readily available to them in drug stores," Chandler said.
The Verify Truth campaign is out to help. Parents can get up to 5 free marijuana test kits, per student, per year.
"We're not even saying to parents, do it, we're saying pick up the test, talk to your teen about, and let them know the option of the test might come up if they're breaking rules, when they start driving, when they get a job," Chandler said. "This just one more way for teens to say, no my parents might test me, my mom is crazy, all teens understand that phrase."
Since June, they've given out 1,000 of these tests. Most parents seem pleased with the idea.
"It gives the parents an idea knowing what is going on out there with their kids," Gau said.
Still, there are a few who aren't convinced.
"It's pretty much influencing parents to just drug test their kids for no reason," student Aaron Hawes said.
"It kind of does bring down our rights a little bit," Sethi Genus-Christian said.
For more information on the program, go to VerifyTruth.org.
You can pick up test kits at the Charlotte County Sheriff's Mall office or the Punta Gorda Police Department lobby. You can also request one via e-mail by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.