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Article updated: 6/19/2013 4:10 PM

District 203 studying drug testing for some students

By Marie Wilson

Naperville Unit District 203 is edging toward possible random drug testing for students who participate in extracurricular activities, but in a manner one board member described as "slow and thoughtful."

Administrators say they will spend the summer studying drug and alcohol policies in other districts in response to a coach's suggestion after some high school students were punished for drug use.

School board member Mike Jaensch said any testing program should be designed to help students overcome substance abuse problems, not punish them for first offenses.

"The concern was getting help for the kids that need it," he said.

School board members were briefed this week on research conducted by Bob Ross, assistant superintendent for secondary education. Ross said staff members met with Rosecrance Health Network, which provides drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and also discussed with lawyers the legality of random drug testing for students who participate in athletics or student activities and are governed by the co-curricular code.

Ross said random drug testings for students who participate in activities is legal, but expanding it to the entire student population would not be.

"We can't as a school district say you have to be drug tested or you can't go to school," Ross said. "We can say you have to be drug tested or you can't play sports."

Administrators also contacted athletic directors at high schools in Wilmington, Sandwich, Plano, Rock Falls, Lake Zurich and Oregon, Ill., where Ross said random drug testing is in place.

Those schools usually are not used as comparisons for Naperville North and Naperville Central, so Ross said research must be done among schools more similar in terms of size and demographics -- even if they are out of state.

"There remains a large question about whether or not this is the right thing to do and what is the right way to do it," Ross said. "What we're trying to do is help students make good decisions."

Superintendent Dan Bridges directed administrators to look at how drug testing could fit with the rest of the co-curricular code and consequences for other violations, such as hazing, harassment or theft.

The code is reviewed each year by a committee of administrators, coaches, parents and students, and this year's review prompted consideration of possible drug testing.

Jaensch said the board will not implement random drug testing without broad community support and he and Ross encouraged community members to share their opinions.

Jaensch also suggested staff examine the drug and alcohol policies of Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., which will begin random testing of its entire student body in August under a health and wellness model that gives students two chances to get help and stop using drugs before facing consequences such as expulsion.

"It's very clear the primary goal is to help the kid," Jaensch said about the Rockhurst policy.

Ross said staff members will update the board in October or November on their research.

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