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 full Senate today.
“We need to do everything in our power to reduce the prevalence of drug use among students in our schools,” said Senator Sacco, D-Bergen and Hudson. “It concerns me that our student athletes see professional athletes using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs and feel they must follow suit to stay ahead of the curve. 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 testing 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.
“I have witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of random drug testing programs. As an Assistant Superintendent of Schools, I have seen far too many cases where the desire to be the best has led student athletes to make poor choices when it comes to using steroids The random drug testing program we implemented in the North Bergen School District to address this concern in a manner than helps students get the treatment they need rather than punishing them for a mistake,” added Senator Sacco.
Senator Sacco noted that no student athletes have tested positive since the inception of the program in 1994.
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.
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 by a vote of 36-0. It now goes to the Assembly for their consideration.