Newsbrief: Chicago Catholic High School to Drug Test All Students 12/5/03

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Beginning next fall, Chicago's St. Patrick's High School will become the first in the state and possibly the nation to require all students to submit to drug tests. Since St. Patrick's is a private school, it is not bound by Supreme Court rulings that bar the suspicionless testing of all students. The Supreme Court has so far carved out "rights free" zones only for student athletes, students involved in extracurricular activities, and students who want access to parking permits.

"We're really doing it to help our kids," Principal Schmidt told WBBM radio Wednesday. "We want to take a little peer pressure off of them and be able to have a good reason to say no to drugs." But it's not a "zero tolerance" approach, he said. "The whole program has an emphasis of, 'Don't do drugs. If you do drugs, stop. If you can't stop, get some help,'" Schmidt said. Students should quit now, he said. "They have really 100 days, because that kid's going to get tested again," Schmidt said. "We'd better see some improvement, if not a total stop, in terms of what happens with that drug use."

All students will be tested during the fall semester, at a rate of 10 to 20 per day, and one-quarter will be randomly tested at other times of year, Schmidt said. St. Patrick's is passing on the $60 cost of the drug test to students' families, he added, although he is looking for donors to cover some of the costs.

The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future annual surveys of teen drug use have shown no difference in use between schools that drug test and those that don't.

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