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    Recently, a 16 year-old student from Dunlap Community Unit School District 323 in Peoria County, Illinois died of a heroin drug overdose. Toxicology results also found traces of cocaine in the student’s system. While his family and friends mourn this young student’s death, some community members are looking towards the School District to take further action in preventing these tragedies from occurring in the future.

    The Superintendent of the School District has publically stated that the death of Joshua Olt “should not be viewed as an indication that drug use among students in the district has increased.” Superintendent Marino says Dunlap School District implements a wide range of drug education and awareness programs and performs random drug testing of students. “A letter goes home to parents stating that today your son or daughter was selected for a random drug test and then after a short period of time we get the results back from that,” explained Marino. “If a student was found to have tested positive we implement what’s called activity code.” Punishment under this activity code includes barring students who test positive from participating in sports and other school related activities.

    While the Superintendent believes the School District’s programs are effective in preventing student drug abuse and related overdoses, some are questioning the effectiveness of the school’s anti-drug program. Today’s generation of high school students have far more access to drugs and alcohol than students of prior generations and while the old programs cited by Superintendent Marino may have been effective in previous years, these programs are outdated and need to be improved.  Rene Sandoval, Director of the Illinois Multi-County Narcotics Enforcement Group has stated, “many teenagers who experiment with drugs first get hooked by visiting the family medicine cabinet.” In addition, today, the increased methods of communication, including the use of internet by most high school students, has resulted in students of this generation being able to acquire drugs or alcohol more easily than ever before. Furthermore, according to the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association “a small bag of heroin may be cheaper than beer and more accessible than prescription drugs. For that reason, the organization says heroin use by young people in the suburbs is on the rise.”

    Increased drug use and access to controlled substances is a nationwide problem, not just an issue facing this Illinois School District. Should schools update their drug prevention techniques and programs in order to remedy the national problem of drug use by students? Cullen and Dykman LLP is available to aid your school district in creating a policy and updating your drug prevention program to aid in preventing tragic deaths, like in the case of Jonathan Olt.  If your institution has questions or concerns about this topic and you would like further information, please email Cynthia Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or call her at (516) 357 – 3753. A special thanks to Hayley Dryer, a third-year law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, for helping with this post.