Simeon Gant at (916) 202-1636
SACRAMENTO — The outcome of a contentious battle in the Assembly Education Committee last night was a 7-2 victory for Senate Bill 1386, authored by Senator John Vasconcellos. The bill is intended to ban random, suspicionless student drug testing in California schools. If signed into law, the measure will be the first such policy enacted in the country.
The committee passed the bill, sending it to the Assembly floor for a full house vote next week. It passed despite opposing testimony from the Bush Administration’s Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Andrea Barthwell, who told the committee that President Bush will commit $25 million in grants to school districts that choose to implement random student drug testing. SB 1386 would block California schools from implementing the invasive practice.
“We are ecstatic that committee members recognize the damage done when the government arbitrarily picks on our youth by invading their privacy, and essentially deems them guilty of using drugs without reasonable suspicion,” said Glenn Backes, who testified on behalf of the Drug Policy Alliance in support of the bill.
In a surprise break from his Republican colleagues, Assembly member Todd Spitzer (R-Riverside), voted in favor of the bill. Spitzer, a former prosecutor, pointed out that random student drug testing further removes the civil liberties of youth who already contend with limited privacy rights as adolescents.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer attended a press conference earlier in the day supporting the measure as protection against “unreasonable search and seizure.” Other supporters of the bill include Jack O’Connell, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the state Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA), NAACP, ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
The largest federally-financed national study of the effectiveness of drug testing (conducted by the University of Michigan in 2003) found that random student drug testing has no effect on students’ drug use. In its publication Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are saying No, the Drug Policy Alliance presents extensive scientific evidence indicating that random, suspicionless student drug testing is ineffective at deterring student drug use, is expensive for cash-strapped school districts, violates civil liberties and privacy rights, and deters students from participating in extracurricular activities, and undermines youth’s trust of adults.