Drug testing students

By Jessica Kalin

High schools across the nation are requiring mandatory drug tests because of the increase in drug use, but DeKalb County schools do not plan to participate.

Some Chicago area schools have implemented mandatory drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities, but for DeKalb, the drug problem is not prevalent enough to warrant random drug testing, said Larry Stinson, principal of DeKalb High School, 1515 S. Fourth St.

“There would have to be a clear and present [drug] problem,” Stinson added.

Of high school seniors nationwide, 21.2 percent smoked marijuana in the previous 30 days during 2003, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported. The institute reported 2.1 percent of seniors used cocaine in the previous month, and 24.1 percent of seniors had used some illicit drug in the previous 30 days.

High schools such DeKalb; Sycamore on Spartan Trail in Sycamore; Hinckley-Big Rock, 700 E. Lincoln Highway, Hinckley; and Genoa-Kingston, 980 Park Ave., Genoa, have strict policies regarding drug use, including tobacco and alcohol, school officials said. Policies provide stiff punishments for students found with drugs in their lockers, cars or backpacks.

Students can be suspended or expelled if such drugs are found, said Larry Peppers, athletic director of Hinckley-Big Rock High School.

Random searches of lockers using dogs have been implemented at all of these schools.

“Students are suspended and face an expulsion hearing if drugs are found,” said Don Billington, Genoa-Kingston High School principal.

Athletes must sign a contract stating they will abstain from using any drugs and abide by training rules. If the athletes violate the contract, they will miss games and practices.

In DeKalb, student athletes must seek drug counseling after the first offense.

Stinson said drug testing can get expensive. He would rather put the money into prevention plans, he said.

“We search lockers, not the kids. We are just trying to deter them,” he said.

The Ben Gordon Center, 12 Health Services Drive, screens for opiates, cannabis, alcohol and barbiturates through urinalysis. Each test costs $50. The center can travel to schools to conduct the tests, but has not yet been asked by DeKalb County high schools to do so.