Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jul 2004
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Jim Sanders, Bee Capitol Bureau
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Bill Would Make Random Testing Illegal and Require 'Reasonable Suspicion.'

Even if Carl Santa Elena gets straight A's, he can't participate in Dixon 
High School sports unless he agrees to urinate in a jar upon demand.

Such policies have sparked a political fight in California, pitting 
anti-drug activists against civil libertarians.

At a time when President Bush is pushing to expand random student drug 
testing nationwide, state lawmakers might ban the practice.

Proponents hail random testing as a way to detect drug use before 
addiction, but critics call such programs an invasion of privacy.

Legislation to bar random testing, SB 1386, recently passed the state 
Senate 27-10 and is pending in the Assembly. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 
not taken a position on the bill.

Santa Elena, an 18-year-old who has participated on tennis, cross country 
and other school teams, doesn't object to random testing.

"I think most of the athletes in Dixon High don't really care whether they 
get tested," he said. "They know they shouldn't be using drugs."

But Andrew Bogue, 15, said the message he gets from the school's testing 
program is that students aren't trusted.

Hilga Quiroz, 16, said the program "doesn't bother me" and that "it gives a 
reason for athletes to say no to drugs" during the sports season.

But Quiroz said some students simply switch from drugs to alcohol, which is 
not detected by the school's testing program.

SB 1386, the California bill to ban random drug testing, largely has split 
lawmakers along party lines, with most Republicans opposed.

The measure would require "reasonable suspicion" before schools could test 
a student for alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines or other intoxicants. 
Reasonable suspicion could not be based on rumor, hunch, race, religion, 
gender, sexual orientation or various other factors, including evidence of 
drug use among a student's family or peers.

Separate legislation to crack down on student use of steroids initially 
called for random tests but is being amended to require reasonable suspicion.

Sen. John Vasconcellos, a Santa Clara Democrat who proposed SB 1386, called 
random testing a horrifying and grotesque practice.

"Our children are precious, not big pawns of politicians," he said.

Random testing is expensive, ineffective, can produce false positives, can 
drive students away from extracurricular activities, and can undermine 
trust between students and administrators, supporters of SB 1386 say.

"When you begin to randomly test everyone, you tell young people that you 
are a criminal until proven otherwise," said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, 
a Los Angeles Democrat and former longtime high school teacher.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he considers random drug testing a 
violation of constitutional rights, despite U.S. Supreme Court rulings to 
the contrary. Students are entitled to basic privacy protections and a 
prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, Lockyer said.

"That's what these random drug tests amount to, in my view," Lockyer said.

Middle and high schools can require urine, hair, saliva or other samples, 
depending upon the testing kit chosen by campuses and the drugs to be 
detected through testing.

Critics of SB 1386 say that requiring reasonable suspicion will thwart 
prevention efforts by waiting until students display visible signs of 
intoxication before officials take action.

"We should be moving toward a proactive approach instead of a reactive 
approach," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City.

Carla Lowe, a longtime anti-drug activist, said random drug tests - like 
airport screening machines - pose a minor inconvenience that potentially 
can save numerous lives.

"I think the right to life for a kid overshadows the civil rights issue," 
Lowe said.

Random testing treats everyone equally, without placing teachers in the 
uncomfortable position of having to document suspicions of drug use before 
a school can intervene, Lowe said.

"I don't want to be a drug cop," said Lowe, a former teacher in the San 
Juan Unified School District. "I want to have a safe, positive environment 
so I can do my best at bringing a kid to his full potential."

The U.S. Supreme Court supported random testing of student athletes in a 
1995 ruling and expanded its approval to other extracurricular activities 
two years ago.

Bush, in his State of the Union address, proposed spending an additional 
$23 million on random student testing nationwide.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, deputy director of the Bush administration's Office 
of National Drug Control Policy, testified against SB 1386 at a recent 
legislative hearing.

Statistics are not readily available on the number of California school 
districts that require random drug tests in middle or high schools.

Dixon High's testing program is a rarity among Sacramento-area campuses.

Principal Brian Dolan said the school is trying to inform and assist - not 
penalize - athletes who use drugs.

Dixon students who flunk a random drug test are not suspended or expelled 
from classes. They must participate in a drug education or intervention 
program for at least six weeks, and cannot play in their team's games for 
one month.

Last year, 525 students signed up for Dixon High sports and about 125 were 
randomly tested. None tested positive for drugs, Dolan said.

Typically, two or three drug users a year are caught through the urine 
tests, he said.

The program costs between $11,000 and $15,000 annually, including staff costs.

Dolan said the message to students is that Dixon High cares about their 
well-being: "We value you, and we're willing to spend our time and money to 
help you make better choices and remain safe and healthy." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake