Naperville School District 203 continues to study the possibility of mandatory random drug testing for students in co-curricular activities, but officials have yet to settle on a recommendation for the Board of Education.
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Bob Ross told the Board of Education Monday that in an effort to gain input from other districts, district staff has reached out to districts in the Midwestern Benchmarking Association.
Two of the districts in the group had mandatory testing. But the input proved insufficient for staff to draw even preliminary conclusions about the effectiveness of their programs, Ross said.
Ross reminded the board that the idea that mandatory testing could provide a deterrent originally came out of discussions with parents and students.
“That was where the suggestion came from,” he said.
With further study on the issue, district staff plans to make a recommendation to the board before winter break in December.
Currently, the district subjects all students to discipline if they violate district code on drug and alcohol use, but those involved in co-curricular activities also are further penalized by having restrictions being placed on their activities.
Ross said that a benefit from the proposed program would be enhancing the district’s anti-drug message, but noted there would be some costs involved, including losing some student class time and test fees of between $30 to $40, depending on what vendor was used.
There are also the unknown costs of battling any litigation that might result from mandatory testing.
“We would anticipate challenges to any discipline that might be taken,” he said.
Ross said that there were different options available, including a voluntary system where parents would sign their children up for random tests.
He also said that possible consequences of drug use by students could include a wide range of actions by the district.
“There could be discipline or it could be just informing the family,” he said.
Board member Kristin Fitzgerald asked about results from districts with mandatory testing compared to those that used a voluntary program.
Ross indicated that there was not enough data to determine whether a mandatory system is more effective.
As for what specific drugs students would be tested for, Ross indicated that it would be a decision on which the district would have some discretion, and noted that alcohol testing could be part of a program.
Board member Suzyn Price noted there were issues concerning student privacy, particularly when they were taking medication. She also pointed out that a University of Texas study that found that mandatory drug testing “didn’t change the behavior, it only delayed the behavior,” with students merely waiting until after their activities were over to use drugs.
Board member Susan Crotty asked if mandatory testing for all students had been considered.
“If it’s going to help kids, why limit it,” she said.
Ross pointed out that the district’s legal advice had been that mandatory testing for all students was legally problematic.
It is one thing, he said, to have mandatory testing for students for co-curricular activities, but quite another to subject the entire student body to random tests.
“We can’t compel anyone who comes to school in District 203 to random testing,” Ross said. “These students have a right to an education.”