Citing "rampant" marijuana abuse at both high school campuses, Naperville Unit District 203 officials are ready to begin discussing random, mandatory drug testing for student athletes and those in student activities.
The ability to drug test students was discussed by a committee of administrators, coaches, parents and students during an annual review of the district's co-curricular code. The conversation, they said, was sparked by a recent incident in which four Naperville North students involved in student activities "came to school under the influence."
The conversation advanced during this week's school board meeting when officials were discussing the code.
Bob Ross, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said the code hasn't been as effective as he'd like.
"One student said plainly 'We students don't sit around and say I better not do that or I'll be in violation of the co-curricular code,'" Ross said. "An idea that surfaced, and we are a very long way from recommending this, was the idea of mandatory random drug testing. We would develop a system that would allow those covered by the code to know they could be tested and perhaps that might help a student be able to say no."
Naperville North Athletic Director Jim Konrad and Central Athletic Director Andy Lutzenkirchen estimated each school has had roughly 30 violations of the co-curricular code at his school this year, of which 24 were marijuana-related.
"Our biggest concern is the pressure on kids is pretty severe now," Konrad said. "Marijuana is rampant in the schools. If there's anything we can do to assist parents and assist the kids to say no, I think it's a positive thing."
Board President Mike Jaensch said he is well aware of the heroin problem facing the area but was unaware other drugs also appear to be so readily available.
"I don't live with my head in the sand, but I was shocked to learn we have that kind of culture. I know there's been a lot of discussions in the community, especially from the heroin angle, but it was sobering," he said.
"It's a tool and for me it would be a tool for the parent, first and foremost with our support. I don't know what the privacy issues are, but we're going to discuss it. If there's a way we can help kids and our community this is something we can look at."
Other board members, however, were initially skeptical. Terry Fielden said he would be wary of using the test for any reason other than to get the students help. Susan Crotty questioned where the parents' and district's responsibilities each lie.
Superintendent Dan Bridges said more research needs to be done about the legality of drug testing and how other schools are using it.
"There are districts in the state of Illinois that are implementing drug-testing policies and practices right now," he said. "I think that's part of what the conversation would have to be once we understand what some of the practices and pitfalls are."
Board members will discuss the possibility of implementing a drug-testing procedure on June 17.