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updated: 7/5/2011 7:05 AM

District 95 to discuss random drug testing

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By Danielle Gensburg

Lake Zurich Unit District 95 officials said they will host a special meeting Thursday to discuss a proposal for random drug testing at Lake Zurich High School.

"The idea was initially brought up so as to give kids a deterrent and a reason to say no to peer pressure," school board President Kathy Brown said.

No decisions will be made at the special committee-of-the-whole meeting, set for 6:15 p.m. Thursday in the library at the high school at 300 Church St. Residents are encouraged to attend and express their opinions.

"The board hasn't decided this issue yet, it's something we're still looking at. We're still looking at the process," Brown said.

The issue came into the spotlight six or seven months ago.

An electronic and paper survey written by District 95 officials and Ela Coalition Against Youth Substance Abuse members was sent out in March, and resulted in about 528 anonymous responses from local residents.

The survey proposed two options: urine collection or hair collection methods, administered by trained District 95 personnel or an outside company.

Questions about whether drug testing should be voluntary or tied to certain types of students, such as those who choose to participate in extracurricular activities, also were included.

Public schools cannot make every student submit to drug tests, courts have ruled. Only pupils involved in clubs, sports or other extracurricular activities can be forced to do so.

"The majority of the response was initially in favor of looking at a drug testing program," Brown said.

Of the respondents, 48 percent said they supported the urine-based method by certified District 95 officials, while nearly 30 percent said they supported none of the options.

Survey results later were submitted for discussion at a meeting on March 10.

In the spring, District 95 officials also approved a student assistance program at the high school and hired an adult coordinator to offer guidance and support to students.

"That person will be involved in the drug testing program, if it gets approved, as well as support students in different situations," Brown said. "This position will exist, however, regardless of whether we do the drug testing or not."

The student assistant program coordinator position is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Antioch and Lakes high schools are among the Lake County schools that have drug testing programs in place. Grayslake North and Central, Antioch and Lakes are among the high schools with student assistant program coordinators.