By VICKI URBANIK
Random drug testing will resume in the Duneland Schools.
The Duneland School Board on Monday unanimously accepted a recommendation
from the Positive Life Program’s Advisory Committee to reinstate random drug
testing at Chesterton High School next school year and then to expand the
testing to Chesterton Middle School students in the 2009-10 school year.
All CHS students in extracurricular and co-curricular activities and those
who drive to school will be subject to the random tests, with 10 students per
month randomly selected. Extracurricular activities include athletics, while
co-curricular activities are those in which students earn grades, such as
band and speech and debate.
CHS used to have random drug testing in the 1999-00 school year, but that
came to a halt with a court ruling that deemed the tests unconstitutional.
Later, however, the U.S. Supreme Court found that schools have the right to
randomly drug test students in “privileged” activities -- such as those in
sports and those who drive. Duneland, however, opted to drug test based only
on “reasonable suspicion,” which applies to any students suspected of being
under the influence.
The reasonable suspicion program will continue, along with the random drug
CHS Principal James Goetz said the school’s Positive Life Committee felt that
the time was right to re-instate the random drug tests. He said to him, the
overriding reason for the random testing is to give students a reason to
reject peer pressure. “It gives the kids a reason to say no,” he said.
Speaking from the audience, William Barkow of Chesterton urged the board not
to approve the random testing, saying that there is no statistical difference
in drug usage among students at schools that randomly test and those that do
not. The perception may exist that random testing is effective, he said, but
no solid evidence exists to demonstrate that that’s true. On the flip side,
Barkow said studies have shown that adult sponsored after-school activities
are effective in keeping kids drug free.
Barkow also said the money that will be spent on the drug testing program
could be put to better use elsewhere.
The drug tests will cost $35 per student and will be paid for through parking
permit fees, Goetz said. Currently, CHS students pay $5 for a parking permit.
He said many students drive to school without a permit, but that problem
should be alleviated with the plans to assign parking numbers for students.
In response to Barkow’s comments about the financial impact of the tests,
Duneland School Board President John Marshall said if school officials feel
that the program can help just one student stay off of drugs, then it will be
Under Duneland’s current suspicion-based program, a drug test is ordered when
there is a suspicion that a student is using drugs. The program applies to
all students, even non-drivers and those not in extracurricular activities.
Duneland Director of Security and Safety Stephen Rohe said he has ordered
about 40 to 50 tests this school year under the suspicion-based program.
The suspicion-based tests involve testing students’ saliva. Goetz said the
saliva tests show if a student has used drugs very recently, while urine
testing shows drug usage within the past few weeks. Duneland will continue
the saliva testing with the suspicion-based program, but the random testing
will involve urine testing. “We’re actually covering both bases,” he said.
If a student tests positive, the student will be directed to the Positive
Life Program, which is an educational program that teaches kids about the
dangers of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Goetz said the intent is not “to
get kids in trouble” but to get them help.
Even if a student tests negative, his or her name will be returned to the
pool of names subject to the random testing. It’s entirely possible for the
same student to be selected consecutive times, which is exactly what happened
the last time Duneland had the random tests, Goetz said, as he relayed how
one student was selected three times. But he also noted that such a method
ensures that the program is truly random.
The random drug tests will expand to the middle school level for those in
extracurricular and co-curricular activities in the 2009-10 school year.
Goetz said the rationale for this is that many of the drug problems start at
the 7th and 8th grade level. The number of students to be tested at the
middle school level has not been determined yet.
The school board didn’t hesitate to approve the random drug testing. School
board member Janice Custer said she was impressed eight years ago, when many
students said they were happy CHS randomly drug tested, since it “gave them
another reason to say no.”
Board member Michael Trout said he supported the random drug testing in 1999
and that he still supports it and feels that most of the community does as
well. Board member Ron Stone said he has seen a dramatic decrease in people
coming to work with drug problems due to the random drug testing program at
Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer thanked Barkow for his input and
recommended that he serve on the Positive Life Program’s advisory board.