Press Release  | 08/12/2004

Student Drug Testing Bill Amended

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CA Bill Allows For Voluntary Drug Testing Requiring Parental/Pupil Consent But Will Not Threaten Participation in After-School Programs
Bill Previously Opposed by Bush White House

Amendments to a bill intended to ban random student drug testing in California public schools were adopted by the State Assembly today. The bill now would allow such programs as long as participation is voluntary --requiring parental and pupil consent -- and will not prevent participation in scholastic or extra-curricular activities for those who don't want to be tested. The bill requires that the results of a random drug test be provided only to the parents or guardian of the student being tested.

SB 1386 by State Senator John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) passed the Senate as an outright ban on random drug testing, allowing only for drug testing based on "reasonable suspicion" of drug use, the current legal standard required for faculty to search a student. The bill still allows testing based on suspicion, and results from those tests may be provided to faculty or law enforcement.

The White House mobilized opposition to the bill, sending then-Deputy Drug czar, Andrea Grubb Barthwell to testify against the bill in the Assembly Education Committee. Even with such weighty opposition, the majority of Democratic members and one Republican, Todd Spitzer of Orange County, voted for the ban.

Subsequent to the hearing Senator Vasconcellos worked with Spitzer to draft changes to the bill that they believe will gain the majority of Assembly votes, and hopefully the Governor's signature. Assemblymember Spitzer presented those amends today to the Assembly, which adopted them by a majority vote.

The Orange County Register, which has joined The San Francisco Chronicle in editorializing in support of the bill, interviewed Mr. Spitzer's last month regarding the amendments: "The most effective deterrent [to student drug abuse] is parental involvement, not parental abdication of responsibility to schools."

Glenn Backes, of Drug Policy Alliance, which sponsored the bill said of the amends, "This way we keep students involved in after-school programs, and prevent school scuttlebutt and stigma." Backes added, "After-school programs are proven to reduce drug abuse and crime among students, and are key to getting into college. Schools should never say to a student that he or she can't participate in band or football unless they turn in a urine sample."

The newly amended bill will be up for a vote in the Assembly early next week. If passed by the Assembly, the Senate must vote on the bill before it is sent to Governor Schwarzenegger.

Simeon Gant at (916) 444-3751 or Glenn Backes at (916) 202-2538

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