Pubdate: Sun, 28 May 2006
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Herald Company
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


No Changes to Policy Expected, Officials Say

As the school year comes to a close, so too does the  first year of
federally funded mandatory drug testing  in Antioch-Lake Villa High
School District 117.

District 117 has built what many educators believe is  the most
stringent testing program in Lake County. It  uses hair samples to
make sure students participating  in extracurricular activities and
those seeking parking  permits are drug-free.

District officials say results from the first year are  favorable --
with only 11 of 1,271 students testing  positive -- but they aren't as
optimistic about the  tests being a remedy.

"Right now, we may be deterring, but it is hard not to  recognize that
we are not stopping drug use,"  Superintendent Jay Sabatino said.

It has also faced complaints from some parents and  students for being
too limited in its scope -- the  number of students and types of drugs
tested -- to be  effective.

"If the district is going to do random tests then that  is what they
should be, random, and of all students,"  said Debbie Walizer, whose
daughter, Angela is a junior  at Antioch Community High School and an
athlete who has  been tested.

District 117 officials acknowledge the criticism, but  say they have
no plans to turn back, with two years  left on the $700,000 federal
grand funding the drug  testing program.

Sabatino said the plan is to continue with the same  testing

"We are in the process of crafting a policy over the  next two years
that will be most beneficial for the  community," he said.

Future Testing

Whether the program will become more stringent or  change in scope is
anyone's guess.

One change being considered is removing students from  the driver's
education program if they are caught under  the influence of alcohol
or drugs at a school event.

District 117 officials have begun examining the results  of a recent
student survey that will be used to develop  a drug policy enforced
after the federal grant expires.

Those results will be presented to the school board in

Beginning this year, any student wishing to participate  in a
competitive extracurricular activity, or who gets  a parking permit,
is given a mandatory hair drug test.

The district switched from urine to hair drug tests  last year because
hair tests go back about 90 days.  Urine tests only go back about two

Administrators can also randomly test those students at  any

In addition, drug dogs have been brought into the  district's two high
schools -- Antioch and Lakes  Community in Lake Villa -- on a
quarterly basis.

"Typically there will be a hit, and we will open up the  locker and
not find anything," Sabatino said. "As far  as I can remember, nothing
has ever turned up."

According to Sabatino, the community has been receptive  to the drug
testing program.

"There were some concerns about what people's hair was  going to look
like, and in some situations people might  consider this an
inconvenience," he said. "But I  haven't really heard of anyone too

Nanci Geweke said her son and daughter were both tested  this year at

"I'm glad it happened because I feel like now, if they  are ever in a
situation where they have to make a  choice about drugs, they will
think twice," Geweke  said. "I really do believe this keeps a lot of
kids  from getting into trouble."

Katie English, a junior at Lakes, has been active in  two
anti-substance abuse groups, Snowball and Reality  Illinois.

While she thinks the drug testing in her district is a  positive step,
she isn't as convinced of its  effectiveness.

"I can tell that the district is making an effort,"  English said.
"But a lot of kids who are using don't  necessarily partake in sports
or activities."

Antioch Police Detective Daryl Youngs said there has  been no
noticeable reduction in drug-related incidences  since the school
district began testing.

"Generally speaking, we were not getting a lot of  student athletes
anyway," Youngs said.

Testing Increasing

District 117 is one of only two Illinois districts to  receive the
federal grant, but it is one of many in the  country that has or will
use drug prevention measures.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy says  President Bush's
proposed 2007 budget sets aside $15  million for random drug testing

If approved, that would be a 50 percent increase over  this

According to the National School Boards Association,  about 5 percent
of school districts test for athletics  and 2 percent test for
extracurricular activities.

Still, there are concerns about effectiveness of such

While the courts have upheld the constitutionality of  limited drug
testing, blanket testing of all students  still has significant legal

That's because education is viewed as a right, not a

Jennifer Kern, a California-based researcher for the  Drug Policy
Alliance, thinks limited resources should  be spent on educating
students about drugs, not putting  them under surveillance in programs
that have not been  proven effective.

"These tests do more harm than good," Kern said. "It  breaks down
relationships of trust at school, alienates  students and dissuades
them from participating in  extracurricular activities."

Another problem, Kern said, is the standard drug test  doesn't detect
alcohol, OxyContin or Ecstasy, giving  parents and school officials a
false sense of hope.

"The ideological assumption is that drug tests will  stop people," she
said. "But they do not address the  most prominent problem among
adolescents, which is  drinking."

Kern pointed to a University of Michigan study that  looked at 76,000
students in eighth, 10th, and 12th  grades in hundreds of schools,
between 1998 and 2001.

Released in 2003, it found drug testing was ineffective  and there was
no significant difference in the number  of users at a school that
tested for drugs and a  similar school that didn't.

Meanwhile, proponents of student drug testing often  point to the
SATURN Study, conducted at two public high  schools in Oregon during
the 1999-2000 school year by  researchers at Oregon Health & Science
University in  Portland, Ore.

SATURN found drug testing dramatically reduces drug use  by

Doing What They Can

Nathan Bylsma, who runs District 117's drug testing  program, said the
district is doing the best it can to  curtail student drug use.

"There are going to be some students that chose not to  continue to
play sports because of the test," he said.  "But if you know someone
is using, do you want them on  your team? I don't mean to sound harsh,
but students  make a choice."

Bylsma said at the end of the three-year grant the  district will
decide whether it should continue the  testing.

"I don't think we will ever end it completely," he  said. "Maybe there
won't be mandatory testing across  the board. We would likely make it
reasonable and cost  effective, where people still know they have a
chance  to be drug tested."

District 117 school board member Kathleen Van Dien,  thinks officials
are sending a strong message to  students.

Van Dien said her only regret is state law won't allow  the school to
test all students.

Five years ago, Van Dien's 19-year-old son Matt, died  after crashing
his car. He was intoxicated at the time  and cocaine was detected in
his system.

Matt's death and a desire to implement drug programs  was one of the
reason's Van Dien ran for the school  board.

"Maybe, as a young teen, drug testing would have helped  him," she
said. "As a mom, you always wish and hope  there is something being
done to help."

Testing: District will review policy at the end of  3-year grant
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake