Pubdate: Wed, 15 Sep 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Sheila Ahern
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Antioch Community High School is looking to put some new teeth into an
already tough policy that tests every student athlete for drugs.

The Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117 school board is
considering upping the ante by using hair instead of urine samples to
look for the presence of drugs.

The change, while more expensive, would allow officials to detect drug
use going back 90 days. Urine tests go back only about a week,
officials said.

The board plans to discuss the issue Thursday. Superintendent Jay
Sabatino said it has based its tough drug policy "on what the
community wanted."

"Last year, we started testing randomly, and this year it was
everyone," Sabatino said. "It came from a push within the community to
make sure students didn't participate in drugs."

Student athletes will be tested before their first competition this
school year and randomly during the season. In 2004-05, about 1,500
drug tests will be given to students in the district, which serves the
Antioch and Lake Villa area.

About 500 students were tested before the start of all sports this
fall. All but one passed.

Antioch High School students and students from the newly opened Lakes
Community High School who participate in sports at Antioch will follow
the policy.

Students in other extracurricular activities, such as yearbook and
drama, are still tested randomly for drug use, Sabatino said.

A few schools, such as Zion-Benton High School conduct random testing.
However, most districts, including Stevenson High School, don't test
student athletes at all.

"I think it gives parents a false sense of security," said John
Martin, Stevenson's athletic director. "We provide an opportunity for
students to play sports. We are not their parents."

Plus, drug tests don't catch everything, Martin said.

Hair tests will detect for the presence of all the same drugs that can
surface in urine samples, plus Ecstasy. However, it doesn't detect
steroid use, said Steve Schoenfelder, Antioch's athletic director and
assistant principal. Still, Schoenfelder favors drug testing every
athlete and using hair samples.

"By the time we catch a student using drugs, he or she has probably
been using for awhile," he said. "At that point, sports becomes
secondary. We're talking about life here."

District 117 board president Phil Delany agrees.

"It's less intrusive for a student," Delany said. "And it gives us a
better feel if that student is using drugs since it tests back farther."

If approved, the change would go into effect this winter. Hair testing
is about $45 per test, compared to urine testing at a cost of $30 per
test. If District 117 approves the hair testing, it will spend about
$67,500 on athlete drug testing in the 2004-05 school year.

That's a bit much, said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman with the American Civil
Liberties Union.

"That is an enormous expense in this day and age when school districts
are crying for money," Yohnka said. "It also sends a message to young
people that you don't trust them."

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a
program that tested students in extracurricular activities, and some
school districts have gone overboard, Yohnka said.

"Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you have to," he

The Illinois State Board of Education doesn't monitor which schools
drug test their athletes. Neither does the Illinois High School

Roycealee Wood, regional superintendent of Lake County schools, said a
drug testing policy should be made by local school boards.

Drug: Hair tests cost $45 each while urine costs $30
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