TRENTON – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco said he was pleased that Acting Governor Codey today signed his bill, S-500, to permit local school districts to give random drug tests to student athletes.
“This new law is important for school districts to have the tools to test athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs,” said Senator Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen, a professional school district administrator.
Senator Sacco has been the leading State advocate for giving random drug tests to student athletes based on their special pressures to perform which set them apart from other students.
“Student athletes have been pressured into making bad choices about steroid use and this will provide a check on that pressure,” Senator Sacco said.
“I’ve seen random tests work effectively in North Bergen where the emphasis is getting users to receive treatment rather than punishing them for making mistakes about using steroids,” said Senator Sacco who is the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in North Bergen.
Under the Sacco statute, random drug tests would be based on rules adopted by the State Board of Education in consultation with the Department of Health. Testing would be conducted by the school physician, school nurse or a physician or laboratory designated by the board of education.
“The importance of this law is that it will establish statewide guidelines for the random tests for student athletes,” Senator Sacco said.
Under the new law, disciplinary action related to positive test results would be limited to an athletes suspension or ban from participation in interscholastic athletics.
“The public education aspect of this new law is just as vital as the testing itself because it sends out a message to parents and athletes alike that there will be consequences to illegal use of drugs,” Senator Sacco said. “At the same time, the purpose of the testing is to educate and enlighten the students about the illegal use of dangerous, performance-enhancing substances.”
Prior to any school board adopting a drug testing policy, a public hearing must be held and the policy must be distributed to the students and their parents at the beginning of the school year. Consenting to the testing would be a condition for participation in that school district’s athletic program, Senator Sacco said.