Student drug testing policy OK'd

August 04, 2003 11:00 pm

By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

Despite polite pleas from parents and doubts expressed by one board member, the Bret Harte Union High School District Board members last night approved random drug testing of student athletes.

"We are creating more and more rules because of a minority who use these substances," board member Roger Orman said. Still, when the vote was called, the testing policy passed unanimously.

Random testing will start Aug. 20 when the new school year begins, and will affect about a third of the student body.

All athletes will be tested at the beginning of each sports season, and after that, four names a week will be pulled from a computer database of athletes and cheerleaders. Those students will have to give urine samples on campus during a break between classes so the testing will not be obvious to the larger student body of 880.

A litmus strip will give initial results, and if they show positive, the sample will be sent to an independent lab to be tested for such substances as cocaine and marijuana, but not steroids.

The new policy recommends testing all athletes at the beginning of each season, with random testing being conducted weekly during the fall, winter and spring seasons.

Last night, Columbia resident Michael Harami read a statement against the policy, saying, "suspicionless drug testing is in direct opposition to the Fourth Amendment."

He said the proposed policy "automatically declares hundreds of students guilty until they prove their innocence via search and seizure of their bodily fluids."

Although polite, the discussion indicated how divisive the new policy might be.

At the policy's first reading on July 21, several parents spoke in favor of it and no one spoke against.

But last night, John Kramer of Vallecito expressed concerns about the policy.

A father of three Bret Harte High graduates and with one soon-to-be freshman, Kramer asked for clarification on how samples will be handled and how the lab will conduct its testing.

"False positives could be difficult for students and their parents," he said.

He also questioned why steroids are not on the testing list.