Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jul 2004
Source: North County Times (CA)
Copyright: 2004 North County Times
Author: David Fried
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


NORTH COUNTY ---- A bill moving through the state Legislature that
would ban random drug testing programs at California schools has drawn
adamant opposition from a North County assemblyman.

The bill would prohibit schools from testing students for drugs and
alcohol without "reasonable suspicion."

Assemblyman Mark Wyland, R-Escondido, said last week that he believes
legislators should not be dictating how school districts confront drug
abuse and that random drug testing is simply a tool that should be

"This really is something that ought to be dealt with on a local
level," Wyland said.

The bill's author, state Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, said
he believes allowing school districts to do random testing
accomplishes little.

"Learning occurs best in a safe environment and random drug testing
does nothing to make school a safer environment," said Vasconcellos,
author of Senate Bill 1386 and chairman of the Senate's Education Committee.

Vasconcellos added that the bill would not alter existing programs for
voluntary drug-testing, which generally require parents' and students'

Vasconcellos said the Bush administration is trying to "bribe" the
public with a $25 million initiative to promote drug-testing programs
in the nation's schools and that his bill would prevent California
schools from being tempted by that money.

At an Assembly hearing last month, an official from the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy advocated random testing as an
effective public health tool.

Whether the bill ultimately passes the Assembly and is signed into law
by the governor may not affect local schools all that much. At
present, none of the school districts in North County practices any
type of drug testing.

However, from the fall of 1997 until the summer of 2003, the Oceanside
Unified School District randomly tested its high school athletes and
cheerleaders for the presence of controlled substances from marijuana
and amphetamines to steroids. Last school year, district officials
decided the program was too expensive and stopped performing the
tests, which were conducted by a private laboratory and cost about
$15,000 a year.

Nevertheless, district officials contend the program was successful
while it lasted and the district's superintendent sent a letter to the
governor last week expressing the district's "unequivocal opposition"
to the bill.

Joe Farley, Oceanside Unified's deputy superintendent, said he
believes that at least a few students who knew they could be tested at
any time abstained from drugs for that reason. District officials
estimated that less than 1 percent of students who were tested came
back with positive test results, while others simply left their sports
programs rather than submit to the tests.

Other superintendents and district officials said their districts did
not have and were not considering any type of drug testing.

Only the Poway Unified School District in recent months has discussed
the issue. This spring, a local city councilman pitched the school
board his plan to implement a voluntary program to test students for
drugs and alcohol, the cost of which would be shared between the city
and the parents.

But most district administrators said the issue was simply not on
their radars.

"My general sense is that they've (drug testing programs) fallen by
the wayside over the past several years," said Escondido Union High
School District Superintendent David Hughes.

The bill passed the Senate earlier this year 27-10. The Assembly could
vote on it sometime in August.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin