St. Viator, Illinois High School, Starts Randomly Testing Students For Alcohol

An Illinois high school has started a new phase in its controversial effort to dissuade students from using drugs or alcohol.

As of Monday, students at the private St. Viator High School in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights are subject to random drug and alcohol testing. According to CBS Chicago, hair samples from 10 to 20 students will be chosen by random student ID selection for testing by a third-party company each week.

School administrators say the tests reveal if a student has had alcohol or used drugs like ecstasy, cocaine or marijuana in the past 90 days. The Daily Herald reports the test can't detect small amounts of alcohol -- like sips of communion wine.

Once the school receives a student's positive test results -- which ABC Chicago takes about five days -- the school decides on a course of action, like discipline or counseling.

Parents were informed of the new policy over the summer, with mixed reactions to the school's move. In addition to many St. Viator students, the American Civil Liberties Union is particularly unenthused.

"We have a mechanism for controlling the behavior of young people outside school — they're called parents," ACLU Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka told the Tribune in August. "I don't think we need for schools to be acting as uber-parents."

Though the ACLU has generally opposed such random student testing on the grounds of invasion of privacy, the group concedes St. Viator is free to conduct the tests since they're a private institution.

Meanwhile, St. Viator Principal Rev. Corey Brost insisted to CBS students actually welcome the tests because it gives them an excuse to turn down drugs and alcohol.

"We want to give kids a good reason to say, 'No, I can't drink, St. Viator tests for alcohol,'" Brost told the Herald.

The school has randomly tested students for drugs since 2007, but the random tests for alcohol are new this year. As reported earlier, the school believes the move may be unprecedented in Illinois.

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