News that St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights will start randomly testing all students this fall for alcohol consumption, in addition to the drug tests the school already administers, has parents and recent alumni talking.
Starting in October, 10-20 students will be randomly selected each week for a hair sample test done by an outside company. The tests will show the amount of drugs or alcohol a student has consumed within 90 days.
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The Rev. Corey Brost, principal of St. Viator, said last week 88 percent of the Viator parents who responded to an online poll support alcohol testing.
The comments running with the Daily Herald's story online, however, show a more even split among supporters and detractors.
In particular, several recent graduates of the private Catholic high school are expressing concern about the new program.
"Better to have them experiment with (alcohol) in safe environments than try it for the first time in an unfamiliar environment where they are more likely to abuse it," said Megan Gallagher, a 2005 graduate. "Parents should be monitoring this, not the school."
"The kids will attend college and surely overdrink, which is a result of not having the ability to responsibly manage their tolerance for alcohol," agreed Dominic Monaco, a 2011 Viator graduate.
Monaco said he thinks the policy will help keep the school clean, but it won't help the students in the long run.
Peter Kawalek, a 2003 graduate, disagrees.
"I never drank or used any drugs while at Viator," he said. "I went to college, joined a fraternity and did my fair share of drinking but wasn't destroyed by it at all. I don't really think a student's ability to succeed in college will have anything to do with whether or not they got drunk in high school."
Brost said school officials hope the threat of testing will help give students a reason to say no to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and some parents agree.
"I think it's fine. It's the next logical step in the program they already have," said Joe Farwell, a Viator parent and village trustee. Farwell had two daughters graduate from St. Viator and one is still a student there.
The school started random drug tests in 2007.
"When they go out on a Friday or Saturday night they think the world is theirs, but they have to be accountable for the decisions they make. This test helps support that they are accountable to somebody," Farwell said.
As a parent, Farwell said he was pleasantly surprised by the drug testing program when it was introduced a few years ago.
"It's like any change. At first some of the kids were saying it was intrusive, but then it becomes a nonissue," he said.
Farwell laughed when he said that for his three daughters, the biggest concern was how much hair the testing company was going to take.
He said his family sent their children to St. Viator for religious reasons, but that the drug and alcohol testing is a positive factor.
"It we were looking at two schools and one had it and another didn't, I would tend to want them to go to the school that has it," Farwell said.
"It's not because I don't trust my kid, but this way I know that the kids she's mingling with are under the same scrutiny and have to make the same choices."
School officials said the goal of the program is to help students. Some readers say they feel it would achieve that.
"Personally I applaud this move, as it makes it easier for the kids who don't want to drink to say no to the peer pressure," Kawalek said. "It will, hopefully, mean fewer alcohol-related trips to the hospital or the morgue."