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Public supports drug testing, but proposal stalls

MCHS to further research concerns into implementing program

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 3:30 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 5:48 p.m. CST

Results from a community survey came back mostly in support of random drug testing at Morris Community High School, but unforeseen questions and concerns has officials putting the proposal on hold.

The Student Discipline Advisory Committee posted a survey on the district's website about two months ago, asking for the community's thoughts on starting a random drug testing program for athletes and any students involved in Illinois High School Association activities.

The proposed program would randomly test students in IHSA activities for any illegal drugs or controlled substances. The Morris High School website stated it should cost less than $10,000 a year. In March, when the program was first discussed, officials said the proposal was not a reaction to increased drug use at the school, but rather a way to help prevent drug use.

Assistant Principal Jeff Johnson told the school board Monday that 180 people participated in the survey and 75 percent were in support of it, but a lot of questions and concerns came back, as well.

"A lot were regarding the program's effectiveness, the cost of the program and a number of things we don't have answers for at this time," he said.

The committee's notes also said privacy was a concern.

"(The committee) felt it best to table it, research it more and look at what other districts do," Johnson said.

He said one of the committee members suggested investing more money in education rather than this program.

The committee is going to further research the program and did not make any recommendations to the board at this time.

The online survey asked if random drug testing at Morris High would be beneficial and if the person would support such a program. It allowed for additional comments and also asked if theu had any concerns regarding a program.

In March, Johnson said at a recent assistant principals' meeting of the local athletic conference, three of the eight schools represented that day had a drug testing program. He also said then other schools were looking into it as well, because Morris had received inquires from other schools asking if District 101 has a drug testing program.

Coal City Unit 1 School District has had a random drug testing program for students in IHSA activities, such as basketball or speech, for about 10 years. How often they implement the testing varies, but it is about six times a year with about 10 students randomly tested each time. It costs Coal City about $44 a test.

IHSA also does its own random drug testing during the postseason.

POSITIVE PRESENCE

The school board followed through with one recommendation the committee did make — to continue with a full-time school resource officer from Morris police.

Johnson emphasized that Officer Steve Huettemann goes beyond just having a presence at the school.

Huettemann said he provided three major programs this school year: a presentation for the students on synthetic drugs, cyberbullying and an open house for emergency services personnel to get acquainted with Morris High School.

The open house allowed for emergency service people to get a tour around the school. For example, firemen learned where chemicals were stored in the school.

He also has been invited to talk to classes, including driver's Eeducation and health.

"He's very involved in a lot of programs and obviously we want to continue with that service he provides," said Johnson.

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