Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Steve Zalusky
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


The goal, state Rep. Timothy Schmitz said, is not to punish.

"To punish is easy. We have prisons," Schmitz said. "Our end game plan
is to help our children."

If that means mandatory drug testing, "Let's do it," said Schmitz, who
represents the 49th District and lives in Batavia. He was one of the
speakers at Tuesday's student drug testing summit, sponsored by the
federal Office of National Drug Control Policy and held at the
Radisson in Schaumburg.

Schmitz said he would be willing to co-sponsor legislation to codify
the federal standards for drug testing. President Bush has offered to
provide $20 million in funding for schools that want to apply drug

Drug testing is a thorny issue for parents and educators, raising
questions of privacy.

But several speakers and educators attending the conference said the
real issue is the choice between life and death.

Just ask one of the speakers, Rolling Meadows resident Kate Patton,
whose daughter Kelley died of an overdose of the club drug Ecstasy.

"I would have welcomed student drug testing if it would have been
available when Kelley was in high school. If she would have been
tested for drugs and found positive, I would have been alerted to her
drug use," said Patton, the driving force behind Kelley's Law, which
toughened penalties for selling club drugs.

Among the speakers at the conference was Paul D. Connick Jr., district
attorney in Jefferson Parish, La., who talked about the parish's pilot
drug testing program in the public schools.

This year, the program will require mandatory drug testing using hair
of all high school students engaged in athletics and extracurricular

Those testing positive are immediately suspended from activities, and
a school drug adviser meets with the student and parents or guardians.
A professional assessment and a treatment program then follow.
Students who fail to comply are referred to juvenile court.

After the first year, 96 percent of the faculty and students
interviewed indicated the program was beneficial, he said.

Not that there weren't obstacles. Connick noted that in the first
year, 124 of the 1,459 student athletes tested showed up without hair.

"They shaved their bodies," he said. "The sad part about that was,
some of them were advised by coaches or assistant coaches."

Connick said the problem was addressed with random urine testing, and
the following year, a "no hair, no play" policy was put in place.

The conference elicited a variety of reactions.

"I think it's an idea that is worth discussing in our community," said
Joanne Medak, student assistance program coordinator with Glenbrook
South High School.

Kevin Skinkis, recently hired as a director of support services at
Mundelein High School, said mandatory testing could prevent students
from using drugs.

"You're obviously going to get some resistance from some parents and
definitely the students," he said. "(But) this is something to keep
kids safe. This is not something to put kids down or get kids in trouble."

Anne Buck, representing Round Lake School District 116, said:
"Probably the most important thing I've walked away with so far is we
need to establish a need for the drug testing. It's all well and good
to say, 'Yes we have to test kids for drugs.' Is there really a need?"

Charles McCormick, superintendent of Kaneland School District 302,
said he opposes mandatory testing.

"When I look at 80 percent of the districts in Illinois being in a
deficit funding situation, cutting staff and closing buildings, I find
it difficult for this to be a priority.

"I also do not think that it addresses the primary public-health needs
of adolescents. I see more problems related to alcohol use. I see more
problems related to obesity."

McCormick said money should be spent instead on after-school
activities that will divert students from drug use. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake