TRENTON – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco’s legislation to permit local school districts to implement random drug testing policies for student athletes was approved by the Senate Education Committee today.
“The use of any drug, whether it be steroids, marijuana or narcotics, at an early age can have serious long-term consequences for our students,” said Senator Sacco, D-Bergen and Hudson. “I fear that as our high school athletes see steroid abuse become more common among professional athletes, they will see it as a necessary part of staying ahead of the curve in sports. We need to empower our schools with the ability to curb this problem before it starts and provide students already abusing drugs to get the help they need.”
Senator Sacco’s bill, S-500, would require that random drug tests among student athletes be pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education in consultation with the Department of Health. The urinalysis would be conducted by the school physician, school nurse, or a physician or laboratory facility designated by the board of education and the board shall be responsible for the cost.
“As an Assistant Superintendent of Schools, I have seen far too many cases where the desire of student athletes to be the best in their particular sport has led to them making poor choices when it comes to using steroids and other illegal drugs. The random drug testing program we implemented in the North Bergen School District has allowed us to crack down on drug abuse and get drug users the treatment they need,” added Senator Sacco.
The bill would also limit the disciplinary action that a school could take when a student tests positive or refuses a test to the suspension or prohibition of that student from interscholastic athletics.
“It’s important that we treat drug addiction as the disease it is and focus on getting those who test positive for drugs the help they need. If we can address the problem early enough, these students hopefully will not make the same mistakes in the future,” explained Senator Sacco.
Senator Sacco also noted that while random drug testing is already allowed in New Jersey schools, this bill would provide uniform guidelines and procedures for school districts to implement drug testing programs.
The bill would require that any board of education that wishes to adopt a drug testing policy must hold a public hearing prior to the adoption. The policy would need to be distributed to students and their parents or guardians at the beginning of the school year and must include provisions that the consent of the student and his or her parent is required for participation in school sports. The drug testing policy would also need to include the procedure for collecting and testing urine specimens; the manner of random selection; the procedures for challenging a positive result; the standards for ensuring confidentiality; and the specific disciplinary actions to be imposed and guidelines for referral to drug abuse counseling.
The bill passed the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-0. It now goes to the full Senate for their consideration.