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updated: 10/8/2013 10:17 AM

Naperville District 203 still debating drug testing for extracurricular activities

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  • Naperville North Football players line up for offensive drills during a morning sesion.

       Naperville North Football players line up for offensive drills during a morning sesion.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

 
 

As heroin-prevention efforts ramp up in Naperville, one school district is continuing to consider mandatory random drug testing for students in extracurricular activities.

Naperville Unit District 203 board members heard Monday the pros and cons of a possible drug testing policy from administrators, who plan to come back in December with a recommendation of whether testing should begin.

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Board members said any policy should focus not on punishing students found to be using drugs but on providing those students and their parents resources to help make healthier decisions.

"It's not a 'gotcha.' That's not what we're looking for," board member Susan Crotty said. "We're looking to support these kids and their families."

Randomly testing students involved in extracurricular activities -- an idea the district began discussing in February -- would reinforce anti-drug messages from District 203 and the community as a whole, said Bob Ross, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

"We would hope that testing would encourage good decision-making by those covered," Ross said. "We also think these results, be they positive or negative, would provide valuable information to families. That's very important to us. We also think that testing would enhance what is already a very strong anti-drug message from the district."

Monday's discussion came as KidsMatter, the Robert Crown Center for Health Education and 360 Youth Services delve into city-funded efforts to keep teens off heroin by informing them and their parents about the drug's consequences. KidsMatter's element of the campaign, parentsmattertoo.org, goes live Friday.

Board President Jackie Romberg, however, said it is too soon to tell if drug testing for students is covered by the co-curricular code, which governs behavior among those in extracurricular activities, and whether that could complement other community efforts to keep teens away from illegal drugs.

If the district begins drug testing, it likely would require students be pulled out of class. Each test would cost $30 to $40, and Ross said a "robust appeals process" would need to be developed to handle challenges to discipline.

"We'd like to consider whether mandatory random testing is more intrusive than appropriate for a public school district to require," Ross said.

Before administrators come back with a specific proposal, Superintendent Dan Bridges said they also will consider what type of drugs the district could test for and whether alcohol would be included.

Board members expressed concerns about whether testing would violate medical privacy rules by indicating prescribed medications, and some said they wondered if a voluntary drug testing program -- in which parents can submit their student's name to be part of a pool for random screening -- would be sufficient.

No matter how the district proceeds, board member Kristin Fitzgerald said drug abuse prevention will continue to be a priority in Naperville.

"This is one of those issues that's at the heart of our community," she said. "Helping our kids grow up and make good choices."

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