Community forum debates drug testing, meets strong opposition
Parents and community members gave the board a loud and stern “no” to random drug testing at the Board of Education community forum on October 5, attended by about 120 parents and community members.
The proposed plan to randomly drug test students was met with strong opposition from District parents as they marched to the podium at Middle School North one after another to give the Board of Education their opinions on the testing. Of the 26 parents who spoke at the meeting, only two spoke in favor of mandatory, random drug testing.
Common concerns of parents were the confidentiality of the tests, exactly how prevalent drug use is at LZHS, and how the program would be funded.
Barbara Belke, the student assistance program (SAP) coordinator at LZHS, assured parents at the meeting that the program is designed to make sure every effort is made to maintain the student’s confidentiality in the process.
District 95 parent Dan Fewkes disputed the statement during his chance to address the Board.
“There is no confidentiality in this program,” Fewkes said. “That confidentiality is gone when that student is taken out of class with an authority figure.”
One question which seemed to stand out, as it was asked several times throughout the night, was: how severe is LZHS’s drug problem? LZ Police Chief Patrick Finlon answered the question the same way every time.
“[The drug problem] is no different than any other northwest suburban community,” Finlon said. “I stand by my assertion that the problem in Lake Zurich is no different than any other high school.”
The Board of Education said the hope of putting a drug testing program in place is to deter LZHS students from using illegal drugs.
But many parents said the school was overstepping its boundaries in administering drug tests.
“A drug-free environment should be a school’s job,” Karen Abry, District 95 parent, said. “A drug-free student should be a parent’s job.”
The proposed plan would test hair samples of 15 randomly selected students. Six different groups of 15 students would be tested per year, bringing the total number of students to 90. Only students involved in extra-curricular activities or sports, or those who park on campus are subject to testing.
The effort would cost a total of $3600 annually for hair testing, which will come out of “general funds,” according to District 95 Superintendent Mike Egan.
Students who park on campus and test positive would lose parking privileges for 20 days for the first offense. Second offenses would result in permanent loss of parking privileges without refund.
Athletes and club participants who test positive for drug use would be suspended from their activities for 50 percent of the academic school year. Second offenses would result in full year suspension from activities.
Kim Roach, District 95 parent, strongly disagrees with the proposed punishment, stating that suspension from activities would only give the student more time to use drugs.
“Sometimes a parent’s only hope for their children to be linked to the world is the activities they are involved in,” Roach said.
The idea of randomly drug testing students was first brought to the Board three years ago, but was tabled due to rough economic times and the District having to make budget cuts, according to Kathy Brown, Board of Education President.
Recently, the Board of Education has been discussing the proposed plan and is looking to vote on it by December. The forum was held to receive more input from the community and clear up any rumors parents had previously heard.
“This is not public lip service,” Board of Education member Tony Pietro said in response to a question. “We are interested in what the community has to say, clear up any misinformation, and set the record straight to let people know what’s been going on.”