Mandatory random drug tests for athletes may start next fall under a new policy passed Tuesday by the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education.
The policy, which was modified substantially during two hours of board discussion, states that parents be notified via certified mail if a student tests positive for illegal drugs or alcohol. The positive result—which would not be shared with the school district—triggers a mandatory second test some time within 60 days.
If the student tests positive again or refuses a second test the school district would be notified. The student could then be suspended from his or her sport for one game and may be retested again.
Athletes are being targeted because courts have ruled they are the only students who can be randomly tested for illegal drugs.
“While I would support random testing for all students, the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal allow for testing only for students participating on sports teams,” school board President Brian Goldberg earlier this week.
The tests cost about $55 per athlete and would be paid for by the district. The testing would seek to detect illegal drugs and alcohol, but not performance-enhancing substances.
“We are empowering the parent to act, and if they act I am hopeful the student will get the help that we are all desiring,” said board Vice President Jake Manaster, who proposed the parent-only initial notification. The repeat test would also address worries about a false-positive test, Manaster said.
The new directive includes a provision creating a committee of students, staff, parents and community leaders to be chosen and seated within 60 days to implement the program.
The vote came five months after on suspicion of marijuana possession during a Beverly Hills Police Department drug sweep of the campus. The district regularly carries out drug searches using specially trained police dogs.
Several board members made it clear that they believe repeated drug use continues to be a problem at BHHS, although they could not disclose the exact nature of the problems because of privacy concerns for students and their families.
“It is very important not to assume that we don’t have evidence of a problem,” Manaster said. “We’ve had a situation where somebody got into trouble, and a few weeks later got into trouble again even though action was being taken.”
Several BHHS parents spoke against the idea of random testing during the public comment period of the meeting.
“I am concerned about the policy of mistrust this will encourage,” Frannie Rennie said. “No other schools that we compete against [athletically] have random mandatory drug tests.”
Others worried that a positive drug test would go on a student’s permanent record and affect the student’s chance of getting into college. Goldberg replied that parents needed to carefully read the proposed policy, which states:
The district shall not release test results to law enforcement authorities. No disciplinary or punitive action shall be taken against any student who tests positive, other than removing him/her from participation in athletic extracurricular activities.
Board member Lewis Hall dissented on the vote to adopt the policy. He also voted against it May 8 during an initial board reading of the policy. Lewis said he was concerned about the time and expense of a drug testing program, and that he didn’t think drug testing would be a deterrent for students.