VERMILION, Ohio - A few days after 16-year-old Jessica Fernandez committed suicide by standing in front of a train, an ex-boyfriend is speaking out.
The police report states that Fernandez had a drug problem. The report does not say whether drugs had anything to do with her suicide, but James Harwood of Lorain believes it did.
“Jessica was a beautiful person,” Harwood said, sitting on his couch with tears in his eyes.
The 22-year-old said he is a former addict himself and has been in recovery for some time now. He’s coming forward hoping Jessica’s story, along with his, will help stop teens from using drugs.
The teen drug problem in Vermilion has grown so much, the board of education sent out a survey to seek thoughts on drug testing.
The survey reads, “Do you support drug testing for students attending Vermilion local students?”
Vermilion Local Schools Superintendent Phil Pempin said so far, the returns have shown parents are in favor of drug testing all students.
“It has shown, so far, that parents are in favor of drug testing all students. We’ve got a controversial issue and we need to explore it,” he said. “We are not saying we are going to do it at this point, but we are discussing it.”
The the drug testing would cost anywhere from $4,000 to $28,000. Pempin was not sure how the district would pay for that. If it happens, Pempin said drug testing could go into effect for the next calendar school year. He expects the board to make a decision by July or August. Testing could begin for students in sixth grade or eighth grade.
There is precedent for drug testing student athletes, students seeking parking passes and students involved in extra curricular activities. If the board decides to execute drug testing for all students, it would be the first in the nation to do so. Parents would be given a waiver form approving the school to do the testing.
Pempin said he feels drug testing students would give parents piece of mind knowing their kid is not doing drugs. He also stated drug testing students may prevent them from even thinking about experimenting with drugs. He said he felt if a child is offered the opportunity to give into peer pressure a drug test might make them rethink the idea.
“They can say, ‘No I can’t do that. There’s a possibility I could be tested and I’m not going to take that chance,’” Pempin said.
Vermilion Police Chief Christopher Hartung wants parents to stay on their toes and watch their medicine cabinet, where some teens are getting prescription drugs
“We’ve seen a significant increase in substance abuse,” Hartung said. “We’ve had a lot of overdoses in the last few months and that’s because of heroin. Heroin is about $9 a dose. That’s cheap.”
Hartung said he supports Vermilion Schools if it decides to drug test all students.
“I would tell parents to do it. You don’t know what your kids are doing. No one knows what your kids are doing but your kids,” he said. “There’s no good drug, no good alcohol, no good buzz. It’s all bad. The only thing that comes from it is funerals, hospitals and STDs.”
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