Pubdate: Sun, 23 Jul 2006
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2006 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Elizabeth Donald
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Its Effectiveness Is Disputed By Some

Collinsville High School's athletes became the  exception in the 
metro-east last week when school  leaders decided to randomly test for drugs.

Most local high schools don't test, primarily because  the 
effectiveness of using tests to curb student drug  use is questioned.

But Collinsville High's new principal, Eric Flohr,  advocates testing 
after his experiences at his previous  high school, Dwight Township, 
which tested students in  extracurricular activities for about 18 
months.  Dwight's program did not catch any students, but it 
did  work as a deterrent.

"It gave (the students) a way to say 'no' and save  face," he said.

That was a primary motive for the Collinsville program,  according to 
athletic director Bob Hollingshead. He  cited peer pressure as a 
major issue in students using  drugs.

Some Collinsville school board members said they would  eventually 
want to expand tests to all students in  extracurricular activities. 
Only board member Gary  Kusmierczak voted against it, saying he felt 
it was  "excessive and intrusive."

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public  schools could test 
students who participate in  extracurricular activities. Schools may 
not test every  student who attends school, however, because the 
students have the constitutional right not to  incriminate themselves 
and they are required by law to  attend school.

Nick Rayburn, a senior football player at Collinsville  High, said he 
didn't think drugs were much of a problem  for Collinsville athletes. 
"No one cares (about  testing) because no one does it, at least on 
our team,"  he said.

Does testing work? According to a 2000 study by the  National 
Institute on Drug Abuse, students were four  times less likely to use 
drugs if they were subject to  random testing. But a 2003 study by 
the University of  Michigan found no significant difference, and that 
study has been cited by the American Civil Liberties  Union in its 
opposition to what it calls an  ineffective, legally risky method 
that may drive  students away from extracurricular activities.

Yudelkis Russell, a junior and color guard member at  O'Fallon 
Township High School, disagrees that tests  would deter students from 

"Everyone knows the consequences," she said. "This  school is a 
really good school, they're really good  about no drugs.... (Users) 
will do it anyway, testing  isn't going to stop it."

Andrea Cover, a sophomore and also a color guard member  in O'Fallon, 
said it would deter participation.

"It wouldn't bother me because I'd never (use drugs),"  she said. "In 
my group of friends, there's only one or  two who've ever done drugs 
or gotten really drunk...  The only thing it would do is no one would 
go into  extracurriculars."

Most metro-east superintendents said they considered  random drug 
testing to be a tactic of last resort,  preferring to focus on 
preventive anti-drug campaigns.  They don't rule it out as a possibility.

"I'm not going to sit here and say we're different than  any other 
school in the state or the country as far as  dealing with students 
and drugs," said Edwardsville  Superintendent Ed Hightower. "But we 
use a lot of  preventive measures, and we have a strong code of 
conduct where the students know clearly what the  ramifications of 
their decisions will be."

In Belleville, new Superintendent Greg Moats said there  is no 
current drug testing program, but the students do  sign a code of 
conduct. There is no current discussion  of drug testing, he said.

Hightower said he believes schools should concentrate  their efforts 
on programs that will help all the  students, not just those in 
extracurricular activities.  He pointed out that two or three 
students caught using  drugs is small compared to the 1,500 students 
who are subject to the code of conduct -- a second disciplinary  code 
to which athletes and students in extracurricular  activities are subject.

"With that involvement, they appreciate the  responsibility that goes 
into it," Hightower said.

Granite City athletic director Jim Greenwald said there  is "a 
difference between a presence and a problem" when  it comes to drugs.

"I'd be the biggest fool in the world if I said out of  a school of 
2,300 kids there's no presence of (alcohol  or illegal drugs)," 
Greenwald said. "But I believe it's  minimal in terms of our 
athletes. I certainly don't  know of every situation that has taken 
place.... But  they know (the consequences), and it's no fun 
when  you're sitting out for half the season or abolished for  good."

Most school leaders said drug testing would be  something to consider 
if the drug problem appeared to  get worse. While Collinsville had 
eight violations of  its code of conduct last year, Edwardsville 
averages  two or three, and Granite City reported none since  2004.

Greenwald said when one district begins a program like  random drug 
testing, all the others tend to take a  second look at it, and he'll 
be interested to see what  Granite City's board thinks.

O'Fallon High School briefly considered random drug  testing that 
would have affected up to 75 percent of  students participating in 
extracurriculars. But after a  student survey revealed that the drug 
of choice was  alcohol -- one-third of seniors admitted drinking -- 
school leaders dumped the proposal in favor of  reinforcing 
anti-alcohol measures.

Kylie Scimio, a sophomore cheerleader at O'Fallon, said  she didn't 
think testing would stop drug use.

"I'm not against it, because it's important to keep  drugs out of 
extracurriculars," she said. "But I think  the ones who would (use) 
will start right after the  testing ended."

In Highland, a student survey sponsored by the state of  Illinois has 
shown that alcohol is a much more serious  problem than drugs -- 
though this year's results are  not in yet.

"If we have data that indicates that we've got problems  we're not 
aware of, we have to look at our policies,"  said Highland 
Superintendent Marvin Warner.

But Warner said they prefer to be "more proactive than  punitive," 
beginning DARE at sixth grade and other  programs beginning at the 
elementary level.

"I think in certain situations (drug testing) may be  something 
that's necessary, but I think it's something  you do after you've 
exhausted other avenues to address  the problem," Warner said. "It's 
toward the bottom of  the list."
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