Illinois private school St. Viator will begin testing students for alcohol consumption this fall. The school already tests students for other illegal drugs, but decided this summer to test for drinking as well.
Rev. Corey Brost, the school’s president, says “the consumption of alcohol by teenagers has been a concern for many years.”
“We are a Catholic school. It's our goal to help our young people grow spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically, but alcohol impedes growth in all of those areas," Brost said. "We want to intervene in the lives of kids who are drinking a lot or starting to experiment with alcohol."
Under the new policy, the school will collect hair samples from 10-20 random students each month. The test will reportedly measure the amount of alcohol a student has consumed in the last three months. Currently, St. Viator’s tests for illegal drugs come back overwhelmingly clean, with only 1% of tests indicating any drug use.
If a student’s test comes back positive, they will be required to have a confidential meeting with a school administrator and their parents. After the meeting, students will be required to undergo a mental health evaluation by a counselor.
The Illinois American Civil Liberties Union says that although the private school is permitted to be as invasive as parents allow them to be, the new testing policy raises concerns.
“Constitutionally a private school is free to engage in whatever level of intrusion they want into the lives of students so long as the parents tolerate it," said Ed Yohnka of the Illinois ACLU. But, he added, “the presumption is that this alcohol would be consumed off campus and not during school hours. We have authority figures that are designed to be checks on children during those hours — they're called parents."
Brost says the goal of the policy is not to punish students for drinking, but rather to prevent them from drinking in the first place.
"We want to give kids a good reason to say, 'No, I can't drink, St. Viator tests for alcohol,'" he said.
St. Viator says that despite outside criticism, the policy has been received positively by parents. 88% of parents that responded to an online poll by the school support the new policy.