Substance Abuse Program to Stay as Is Warren Township to Stick with Counseling Team despite Recent Suspension

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Byline: Kristin Larson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Warren Township High School officials say they have no immediate plans to beef up their substance abuse program following the suspension of a varsity basketball player for two alcohol-related offenses.

While the Gurnee school does not have a full-time substance abuse counselor, a team of two school psychologists, two social workers, eight guidance counselors and four deans are available to students. These counselors are equipped to talk to students about anything from family issues, drug and alcohol problems to academic pressure, school officials say.

The school also has a student assistance program for kids who have a drinking or drug problem and a drop-in center, which is operated by people trained in substance abuse. At the drop-in center, students can show up either before school, during lunch or after school to receive information or just talk to someone, said Merry Quinn, head of the counseling program at Warren.

"It's just another avenue for kids to get assistance if they wanted, and it's strictly on a voluntary basis," Quinn said.

The issue of teen drinking came to light at Warren after senior basketball player Rickey Higgins was barred from athletics for a year because of two alcohol-related infractions last spring. Higgins, who admitted drinking since his freshman year, has been diagnosed by his doctor as an alcoholic.

Higgins is suing the school district to be reinstated on the team, saying his alcoholism affords him protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Whether Warren would ever hire a person devoted solely to the prevention and intervention of substance abuse, like Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire and Lake Zurich High School, is too soon to tell, Superintendent Robert McKanna said. …