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Drug-Testing Measures Advance in Two States

Bills that would permit school officials to test students' urine for evidence of drug abuse have passed preliminary hurdles in the Tennessee and Mississippi legislatures.

In Tennessee, the Senate and House education committees this month approved legislation that would allow principals to require students to submit to drug testing if the officials have "reasonable cause'' to believe the students are abusing drugs.

The Senate version stipulates that parents must be notified and must give their approval before the test is administered, and that principals must consult with their district's superintendent before ordering such action.
The bills, which were scheduled for debate in both chambers last week, are opposed by the Tennessee Education Association and the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The state board of education supports the Senate version, a board spokesman said.

The bill passed by the Mississippi Senate's education committee on March 8 would authorize pilot drug-testing programs in districts that request them.

Under the proposal, a superintendent or principal could ask the state education department to test a student's urine if the official had a "reasonable suspicion'' that the student was using drugs. Parental consent would be required before the test could be administered.

The committee deleted a provision from the original bill that would have required students to undergo a second test administered by the state Crime Laboratory if their school-administered test was positive.

The measure, set for floor debate in the Senate last week, was introduced by Lieutenant Governor Brad Dye, who proposed similar legislation last year.

New Mexico Lawmaker Challenges State Opinion

A New Mexico lawmaker who is also a teacher has asked a state trial court to decide whether public-school employees can serve in the legislature.

In a suit filed last week, Representative Barbara Casey, a Democrat from Roswell, challenged a recent opinion on the matter by Attorney General Hal Stratton.

Mr. Stratton ruled on March 7 that public-school employees cannot serve as legislators because, even though they are employed by school districts, they are considered state employees.

New Mexico law prohibits state workers from serving in the legislature.

"When we start excluding certain segments of society from political office, then I think we're making a big mistake,'' said Ms. Casey, a high-school Spanish teacher. She is one of at least two New Mexico lawmakers who are employed by districts.

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