Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jun 2004
Source: Modesto Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The Modesto Bee
Author: Eric Stern Bee, Capitol Bureau
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


SACRAMENTO -- Bret Harte Union High School in Angels Camp probably
will stop testing student-athletes for drugs if a legislative effort
to ban random checks becomes law, Superintendent Joseph Wilimek said

Senate Bill 1386 would allow a test only if there is "reasonable
suspicion" that a student is using drugs. The measure advanced out of
the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday and is close to reaching
Gov. Schwarzenegger's desk. The measure needs final approval from the
full Assembly; the Senate already passed it.

Wilimek, whose Calaveras County high school is the only one in the
Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills with a random drug-testing
program, said the bill would open up too many legal and public
relations challenges if a student is wrongly singled out for a drug

Random tests are more fair, he said.

"I'm not sure that we have the ability to say this kid is on (drugs)
and this kid isn't," he said. "We're going to get accused of all kinds
of other things."

But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, who co-wrote the
bill, said it's easy to spot drug use.

"You come into class, your eyes are red, you're falling asleep, you're
slurring your speech, you can't stand up when the bell rings, and
yesterday you weren't like that," said Goldberg, a former high school

"Reasonable suspicion" is defined in the bill as "rational inferences"
not based on "curiosity, rumor or hunch."

Under the bill, schools also could not target students for drug tests
because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or suspicion of drug use
among friends or family members.

Random drug testing, while not widespread in California schools, is a
practice that has been upheld by U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Sen.
John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, who co-wrote the bill, said state
guidelines need to be in place to protect students' privacy and integrity.

Bret Harte's random-testing program for athletes and cheerleaders has
been in existence for a year. Wilimek wants it to continue, calling
the program a deterrent against drug use.

Transgressors Get Counseling

Five of the 532 students tested had positive results, mostly for
marijuana, Wilimek said. The students were not disciplined.

Instead, they attended off-campus drug counseling sessions, then
passed a subsequent drug test, he said.

But the idea has not gained much momentum elsewhere, even in Modesto
schools, where more than 40 students were swept up in an April drug

"Right now, that isn't something we're looking at seriously," said
Marlin Sumpter, Modesto City Schools director of child welfare and
attendance. He said there are concerns about balancing the privacy of
all students while trying to track down only a few drug users.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer echoed that concern Wednesday, saying
random drug testing is "used to step on young people's personal
freedom." He supports Goldberg's bill.

President Bush, who has set aside $25 million in his proposed budget
to encourage schools to adopt random drug-testing programs, dispatched
his deputy drug czar to try to fend off Goldberg's

Andrea Barthwell, deputy director of the Office of National Drug
Control Policy, said the "reasonable suspicion" standard doesn't work
because drug users learn how to hide their behavior.

Random testing exposes it, and the risk of getting caught is enough
for students to stand up to "intense pressure" from other students,
she said. 
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