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updated: 10/7/2011 5:06 AM

Two District 95 board members share concerns about drug testing

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  • The audience at Wednesday night's public forum about District 95's proposal for random drug testing overwhelmingly opposed the plan. Two District 95 board members voiced their own concerns Thursday.

       The audience at Wednesday night's public forum about District 95's proposal for random drug testing overwhelmingly opposed the plan. Two District 95 board members voiced their own concerns Thursday.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Michael Finn

      Michael Finn

  • Doug Goldberg

      Doug Goldberg

  • Tony Pietro

      Tony Pietro

 
 

With a well-attended community forum behind them, a pair of Lake Zurich Unit District 95 board members on Thursday expressed concerns about a plan for random student drug testing.

The views many parents and other community members shared at Wednesday night's gathering in Hawthorn Woods mirrored the doubts board members Michael Finn and Doug Goldberg have about the proposal, which is being considered for Lake Zurich High School.

Finn questioned the confidentiality of random drug testing and what would happen to kids who incorrectly test positive, among other issues.

"Last night did not alter my outlook on this," he said.

Goldberg isn't sold on the proposal, either. He's researched the effectiveness of drug testing, and he isn't confident it's the right step for the school.

"The data ... is, at best, inconclusive," he said.

Goldberg wants to see the results of a survey that should go to parents within the next week or so before finalizing his stance.

"They will weigh into my final vote on the matter," he said.

Finn called the issue "so complex." Neither he nor the other board members have made up their minds, he said.

District 95 officials have been developing a drug-testing policy for about a year. The concept first surfaced about three years ago but was tabled because of district financial problems, officials have said.

Testing would be limited to students in extracurricular activities or those who drive to school. U.S. courts have limited drug testing at public schools to such optional activities.

Students found to have been using illegal drugs would be suspended from participating in activities for half a season or academic year. Second offenses would result in activity suspension for the rest of the year.

Parking privileges would be lost, too, officials have said.

The effort would cost the district about $3,600 annually, officials said.

About 100 people attended Wednesday's forum, and the majority who spoke or asked questions opposed random drug testing. Some said it interfered with their parental rights, and others questioned whether it effectively reduces drug use among teens.

Some people spoke about the dangers of drug use, but only one person publicly supported the testing proposal.

"It was certainly good to hear a large cross section of the population express their opinions," Goldberg said.

"It gave me a lot more insight," Finn said.

Although he's not convinced random testing is the best way to keep teens from using drugs, board member Tony Pietro said he'll keep an open mind until he sees the results from the upcoming survey.

A survey completed earlier this year showed most respondents favored random drug testing, District 95 officials have said.

Pietro is unsure if the opponents who spoke Wednesday represent a vocal minority or if the public has shifted its stance on drug testing.

"This is a difficult decision, and we want to make the right decision," he said.

Few public high schools in the North or Northwest suburbs randomly test students for drug use. Antioch and Lakes high schools are among those that do.

The board will discuss the matter at a Nov. 3 committee of the whole meeting. Officials expect to vote on a drug-testing policy by the end of the year.

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