Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jul 2004
Source: Record, The (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The Record


White House At Odds With Bill In State Legislature

State lawmakers are at odds with the White House over the effectiveness and 
appropriateness of random drug testing in public schools.

State Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, and Assemblywoman Jackie 
Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, are championing a bill that would ban random drug 
testing of students unless school officials have reasonable suspicion a 
student is using drugs.

But President Bush has asked Congress to set aside $23 million dollars for 
school districts willing to test their students for illegal drugs, in 
addition to the $500 million in drug-education money that can be used by 
districts to develop drug testing programs.

Without suspicion, randomly testing students is a waste of money, and it 
sends the wrong message to young people, Goldberg said.

"I don't believe you stop being a citizen of the United States when you go 
to high school," Goldberg said last week. By randomly testing students, 
"You're insulting and demeaning youngsters who are doing nothing wrong. I 
don't think that's how a free and democratic society operates."

Drug-testing programs are not common here, although athletes at Bret Harte 
Union High School in Angels Camp submit urine samples to test for illegal 
drugs. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld drug-testing programs in schools 
that randomly test students in after-school activities like sports.

But the proposed law, which has passed the Senate and will be voted on by 
the Assembly next month, would ban those programs unless suspicion arises.

Last month, the White House sent its deputy drug czar, Andrea Barthwell, to 
Sacramento to speak out against the bill. Barthwell called drug testing, 
which has been estimated to cost anywhere from $10 to $100 per test, an 
"extremely inexpensive way to prevent drug use."

Godberg agreed that testing students could be an effective deterrent, but 
that doesn't require every student to fear testing, she said. If students 
know they could be tested if they act suspicious, testing can have the same 
effect, she said.
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