COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — A private school in east Georgia intends to start drug-testing its oldest students.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that Brookstone School in Columbus recently announced that the drug-testing of students in grades 8-12 will be voluntary next school year — and then mandatory in succeeding years.

Brookstone plans to use students' hair samples which are sent to Psychemedics Corp. to conduct the testing, the newspaper reported. The Massachusetts-based company would then provide test results within a few days.

Psychemedics automatically will test Brookstone students for 18 types of drugs. Alcohol isn't among them, but parents and guardians may request their child's test to include alcohol screening, the newspaper reported.

The focus of the program is the health and well-being of students, Brookstone said in a statement.

"There is a national drug crisis impacting all communities and all schools," it said. "Brookstone is committed to responding to this national health issue and being fully engaged in proactively making a positive difference in the lives of its students."

School officials added that drug-testing will improve the school's ability to work with parents and health professionals to help students.

"The daily news has made us all acutely aware of the significance and size of this growing crisis. We must be a part of the solution as we work to save children from this critical health issue," Jason Branch, chairman of the school's board of trustees, said in a statement.

Brookstone has about 800 students, including 370 in grades 8-12, school spokeswoman Connie Mansour said.

The reaction from Brookstone parents has been "overwhelmingly positive," said Marty Lester, the Head of School.

Lester acknowledged "a few" parents have criticized the policy, but the concern has been more about questioning how the policy came about and how it will be implemented, he said. No parents have told him they will remove their child from Brookstone because of the policy, he said.

Brookstone hired Lester 1½ years ago from St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama, where students have been drug-tested for a dozen years, he said.

"In all my years there and in all the parent meetings I had to talk about it, I can remember only one that ended badly," he said. "The other ones all ended with a 'Thank you.'"

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Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, http://ledger-enquirer.com