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Drug tests of athletes unlikely

Pasco County middle and high schools aren't likely to force student athletes to submit to drug tests, although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that schools may do so.

Superintendent Tom Weightman and assistant superintendent John Long briefly discussed the matter Tuesday morning, but didn't delve into the topic, Long said.

"I haven't had any coaches nor any principals call me and tell me this was a great concern," Long said. "I haven't had one single person call me up since the Supreme Court rendered that decision and tell me they think it was a good idea."

The 6-3 Supreme Court ruling found that mandatory urine screening tests of student athletes do not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. The court also determined that student privacy is not significantly affected.

In the past, the court has decided there must be suspicion that individuals are involved in wrongdoing before the government may search them. One exception is if work duties or public safety is involved.

The case originated in Vernonia, Ore. School officials there began mandatory drug testing of all middle and high school athletes in 1989, citing an epidemic of drug use and the need to protect athletes from injuries.

There undoubtedly are Pasco student athletes who use drugs, Long said, adding that the problem does not qualify as an "epidemic."

But Long indicated that district officials aren't inclined to consider a blanket policy that all prospective athletes be tested.

"It's very expensive," he said, adding that the tests cost $100 or more per person tested, which in the case of student athletes would mean thousands of tests.

The district does test bus drivers and other employees whose drug use could jeopardize the safety of youngsters.