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updated: 9/9/2011 4:08 PM

District 95 drug test forum, survey planned

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By Abby Scalf

As Lake Zurich school officials continue to polish a possible random drug testing procedure for students, they are also planning opportunities for parents and the community to provide feedback.

Lake Zurich Unit District 95 will host a community forum Oct. 5 at Lake Zurich Middle School North to present a draft of the proposal aimed at students who participate in extracurricular activities and have parking permits.

"We have spent a lot of time on this, and rightfully so," board member John Kropf said at Thursday's committee meeting. "It's a big step in a new direction. It will be great to have the forum so we can get some more feedback from the community on a face-to-face basis and proceed accordingly."

Following the forum, the district will conduct a second survey on the issue to be sent to district families. The first survey was provided to parents in March.

District 95 officials on Thursday also discussed some changes made to the drug test proposal, which was first unveiled and discussed at the board meeting in July.

It calls for a group of 15 students, randomly selected from among those who participate in extracurricular activities and have parking permits, to undergo drug testing in each of six periods during the school year.

Under that draft, students who commit a first offense would be suspended from participating in meetings, practices, competition or performances for 50 percent of the season or academic year. For a second offense, the student would be suspended from their activity the rest of the year.

Board members identified one change to the proposal that calls for offenders who participate in sports and clubs during the same season or semester, to have the suspension affect all activities at the same time.

After the meeting, board member Doug Goldberg said officials also are considering changes to address possible "what if" scenarios, such as a child who is sick, in the middle of a test or taking a medication.

"Now we are trying to make the policy more inclusive to handle those kind of possibilities," Goldberg said.

No parents spoke at the meeting, but board member Tony Pietro acknowledged some object because they believe they are losing parenting rights and their liberties are violated. He said he does not agree with that position, but added if the district implements this program it may consider giving parents an option to sign a document that will allow their child to opt out of testing.

Goldberg said developing this procedure is complex. He encouraged board members to talk with stakeholders and review data available on the Internet about the value of implementing a drug testing program.

"As a parent, my first reaction is this sounds like a good thing to do. But we have to make a decision based upon the facts and whether or not this will have a measurable benefit to the community, and we need to have more conversations about that," he said.

Officials say they hope following the forum, survey and further discussion among the board, they can approve a procedure by the end of the school year.

"I'd like to see us reach closure on this," Pietro said.