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Random Drug Test Ban OK’d

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 Wednesday.

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 test.

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 teacher.

“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.

Posted by A. Shapiro
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