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Drug Testing For Bret Harte Athletes Approved

The Bret Harte Union High School District Board of Trustees voted to test student athletes for seven illegal drugs beginning with falls sports participants.

The vote at this week´s meeting was unanimous.

Only a few people appeared at the meeting to voice concerns over the testing program that requires every student athlete and cheerleader to submit to a drug test at the beginning of the season. Once the fall, winter and spring seasons are under way, four athletes will be randomly selected every week for testing.

Michael Harami of Columbia told trustees he felt “suspicionless drug testing is against the Fourth Amendment” of the Constitution. “This policy automatically declares students guilty until proven innocent,” he said.

Athletic Director Rich Cathcart said the policy would be good for athletes at Bret Harte. He told trustees he had spoken to schools in California and Washington and “all schools say it works.”

During discussion with the board, Cathcart added coaches were so much in favor of the program they have offered to raise money to pay for it if needed. But he noted the testing won´t be looking for steroids.

Board member Tony Tyrell immediately asked Cathcart, “To your knowledge have we had a steroid problem here?”

“Yes,” Cathcart responded.

Superintendent Joe Wilimek said the test for steroids is very expensive, so the test was not considered for the policy at this time. Arla Yost, a senior who plays on the varsity soccer team, told trustees she is concerned there are getting to be too many rules for students to conform to at the school.

“I don´t need another excuse to say no” to using drugs, she said. “It´s your own willpower, but I´m thought of as guilty.” She also suggested students might use more alcohol when partying because it leaves the system faster and then might not be detected in testing.

“I have friends that play fall sports who had smoked pot (one of the substances the program will screen for) but stopped and they´re drinking more now,” Yost said. “There has been a lot more drinking.”

Trustee Dr. Roger Orman said he also is concerned the district is placing more rules on students just because of a few who misbehave. He also asked Wilimek where the proposed $5,000 annual cost of the testing program is coming from. Wilimek said the money is part of a $10,000 cushion of discretionary funds in the budget. “(The testing) won´t cut into anything,” he said.

A letter is being prepared to send to students and parents informing them of the new policy, according to a district spokeswoman. She said the letter states testing will begin on Sept. 2. Students return to classes at Bret Harte on Aug. 18.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Mike Taylor.

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