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Calif students drug tested at parents' request

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POSTED November 25, 2012 7:11 p.m.

SANTA CLARITA (AP) — A Santa Clarita school district plans to expand a first-of-its-kind program that allows parents to track the results of random drug tests of their children.

More than 2,000 out of 23,000 students participate in the free program administered by the William S. Hart Union High School District and funded by a federal grant, the Los Angeles Times reported ( ).

Parents choose whether to enroll their kids in the Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Reduction and Education, or CADRE, program, which requires students to submit to regular urine tests. Parents are notified if students skip a test.

Kathy Hunter, Hart's director of student services, tells the Times officials hope to see the program grow every year by three percent.

Instituted in 2008, it is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, according to administrators. Many schools require drug testing for participation in sports and other activities, but the Times said the Hart program is unique by serving parents who want to monitor their kids — whether the kids like it or not.

Elaine Bogart told the newspaper she didn't hesitate to have her two teenagers submit to drug tests.

"It was my decision," she said. "They do have some rights, but I'm responsible for them. I need to make sure they're safe."

Civil rights advocates say the program could invite invasion of privacy lawsuits. Michael Risher, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said parents do have the right to enroll their children in a drug-testing program. But children in California also have privacy rights, he told the Times. And if a student refused to be drug-tested, despite parental consent, the school district might be leaving itself open to a legal challenge, he said.

District officials said its attorneys thoroughly vetted CADRE.

Under CADRE, urine samples are collected from random students in the program at various schools every month. Medtox Scientific Inc., a certified drug-testing company, analyzes the samples and then sends the results to another lab for confirmation.

Parents are notified of their children's results by phone. Students who test positive are referred to a therapist and offered other assistance, the Times said. School officials are not told of individual students' test results.

During the 2011-2012 school year, 63 of the 1,952 students who were enrolled in CADRE tested positive, Hunter told the newspaper. The most common drug found was marijuana, but heroin, methamphetamine and more recently such new drugs as bath salts have also been detected, Hunter said. So far this year, there have been 35 positive test results.

The original $216,000 federal grant that funded CADRE ended last year, but there's enough money left for the program to continue for the time being. The district will look for other ways to fund the program, including corporate sponsorship, Hunter said.

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