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Drug Test Ruling Provokes Divergent Student Views

June 27, 1995|ELAINE WOO and DIANE SEO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Henri Taylor and Jennifer Sari see the issue in starkly different terms.

To Jennifer, a junior basketball player at Brea Olinda High School who agreed to be tested for drugs as a freshman, mandatory drug testing of high school students makes sense because "playing sports is a privilege."

To Henri, a student at Los Angeles' Dorsey High School, it is a blatant violation of individual rights--"an invasion of privacy," he says.

In an informal sampling of students from Santa Ana to Los Angeles on Monday, Jennifer seemed to voice the more popular view.

Perhaps reflecting the conservative mood of the country, more students said they agree with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which held that conducting random urine analyses on athletes and other students in middle and high schools does not violate their constitutional rights.

Mandatory drug testing, they said, might deter more youths from drug use and give them an easy way to resist peer pressure to try drugs.

Jason Smith, a 15-year-old sophomore football and baseball player at Costa Mesa High School, said, "That's fine with me, because people shouldn't be taking drugs in the first place. I know a lot of people who use bud [marijuana] or speed, but maybe they won't do it now."

And Derrick Anderson, 16, who plays on Crenshaw High School's varsity basketball team, agreed, saying that a mandatory drug testing program might make it easier for everyone to succeed in school..

"A lot of kids smoke [marijuana], and when they smoke they are not focusing on school work and they cause a lot of trouble," he said.

About a dozen high schools in Southern California have sponsored voluntary drug testing programs over the last several years, although many have discontinued the effort largely because of the cost.

At Laguna Hills High School, about 140 students have been tested over the past four years. So far only one has tested positive, and that student was found to be using prescription drugs to treat his asthma.

Edison High School in Huntington Beach has had a volunteer drug testing program for the past 15 years, according to Principal Brian Garland. While Garland does not expect the school to change to a mandatory program in light of the recent ruling, he said that such a policy could give students the "out" they need to resist peer pressure.

"This won't change what we do," Garland said. "The voluntary program is--as the word implies--a program parents and students choose to be in. . . . I still have some nagging doubts on invasion of privacy, which is why a voluntary program is more positive."

Mater Dei, a private Catholic school in Santa Ana, had considered instituting a campuswide anti-drug policy two years ago that included testing but scuttled those plans when officials were told it would not stand up under judicial scrutiny. Monday's ruling "definitely clears things up," basketball coach and boys' athletic director Gary McKnight said.

"What I like is when a kid is at a party, he now has a reason to say no," McKnight said. "Before this, peer pressure was tough, but now the kid has a way out."

Many parents, administrators and other teachers seemed to agree.

Tina Victor, whose 12-year-old son will be entering Newhart School in Mission Viejo this fall, said she feels comfortable having her son and other students involuntarily tested for drugs at school.

"So many parents wear blinders when it comes to their kids that sometimes schools need to have authority," she said.

Tustin High School Principal Bob Boies expressed support for the Supreme Court decision, "because all schools need to have a zero tolerance policy toward drugs. It's another tool to keep the athletics program as clean as possible."

Some students, however, said mandatory drug testing could open up a hornet's nest of problems, and they were leery about its use as an effective weapon against drugs on campus.

"I don't think it's a good idea. It's invading my privacy even if I did it [use drugs] or not," said Shyonta Mack, a junior in Dorsey's math and science magnet program. "It's like accusing people of doing drugs without knowing if they do or not."

Armando Flores, 18, who just graduated from Santa Ana High School, feared that school administrators might use the testing to target certain students.

"School administrators can pick on students who they don't like," said Flores, who said he played football and wrestled in high school. "A lot of kids just won't turn out for sports because they'll feel too uncomfortable."

And Calvin Abbott, an assistant football coach at Crenshaw High, said he disapproves of student drug use, but opposes mandatory testing, particularly if it singles out athletes.

"If the kids are tested positive, what are the consequences?" he asked. "Could that ruin a young man or a young woman's career? That shouldn't happen at this stage of their lives. These are young people, trying to chase a dream."

Contributing to this story were Martha Willman and Mike Terry.

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