Sacco Looks To Reduce Drug Abuse Among Student Athletes

TRENTON – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco announced today, in light of the recent steroid abuse scandal in Major League Baseball, that he would renew his efforts to pass legislation that would permit local school districts to implement random drug testing policies for student athletes.

“As our high school athletes see steroid abuse become more common among professional athletes, I grow more concerned that they will see this behavior as an acceptable way to get ahead in sports,” said Senator Sacco, D-Bergen and Hudson. “We need to show students while in high school that drug abuse can have some very serious consequences, not just on one’s physical health, but on their professional life, as well.”

Senator Sacco’s bill, S-500, would authorize local school boards to implement random drug tests among student athletes. The bill would require that any such policy would 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 a school administrator, 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. Our schools are working hard to educate all students to the dangers of illegal drugs, but there will always be young people who think they can beat the system and not be affected by drug abuse. By allowing schools to randomly test for drugs, we are providing one more deterrent against the use of drugs and one more tool to help keep them healthy and safe,” added Senator Sacco.

Senator Sacco also noted that the bill limits 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.

The bill also requires 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 now awaits consideration by the Senate Education Committee.

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