Oak Park and River Forest High School officials contend police are notified about drug activity among students at the school, responding in part to an article in a local newspaper.

A lengthy discussion occurred during the annual review of the school’s code of conduct at last Thursday’s District 200 school board meeting, about when police are notified and for what infractions. According to the code of conduct, arson and gang activity are two infractions requiring police notification. The intent to distribute and deliver an illegal substance also requires the school to notify police.

School officials last week responded to an article in the Oak Leaves that quoted an Oak Park youth officer who described OPRF as “ground zero” of an increasing local drug trade. The officer, Sgt. Anthony Thomas, was quoted saying that police find it difficult to compile juvenile drug statistics because the high school doesn’t report every incident.

“That statement was not true,” said Supt. Attila Weninger, explaining that OPRF’s school resource officer (SRO), Eric Locke, is consulted in such matters.

“We do consult with police through our own SRO regarding some of these instances and based on those conversations and that individual’s analysis, it may or may not be reported.”

Principal Nate Rouse added that the school defers to the school resource officer’s judgment in some incidents. He said the police may defer back to the school to discipline the student or students. Rouse added that drug counseling is among the consequences.

“We will always notify Officer Locke when there’s an incident of drugs or anything like that,” Rouse said. “They have certain determinations as to what they can and can’t do.”

If a small amount of drug residue is found, Rouse said the school can make a judgment of whether to hand out consequences via its code of conduct.

“There have been times where a decision has been made, but because of the lesser amount of a particular substance, it’s not enough for them to provide any police consequences for that student.”

But Rouse said if a student comes to school under the influence of a controlled substance, they will not be in school the next day. He stressed that sends the message not only to that student but his/her peers that such behavior is not tolerated.

Weninger and Rouse both acknowledged that there is a grey area when it comes to reporting and consequencing certain drug activity. Weninger noted that the school would prefer to discipline certain offenses instead of turning students over to police where they’ll have a record.

Board member John Allen blasted the Oak Leaves for quoting the officer.

“This is a borderline slanderous article,” he said. “I just wanted to point out the board has already undertaken some discussion about this and has looked at what some of the problems are, but to print something as ludicrous as that is asinine on its face.”

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