Senate Juvenile Justice Bill Passes in Wake of Colorado School Shooting, Would Dramatically Increase Surveillance and Drug Testing 5/28/99

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Scott Ehlers, Senior Policy Analyst, Drug Policy Foundation, [email protected], http://www.dpf.org

On May 20th, exactly one month after the Colorado school shootings, the Senate passed S. 254, the "Violent and Juvenile Offender Act." Approved by a vote of 73 to 25, the massive bill not only seeks to increase penalties for violent and juvenile offenders, but also promises to expand suspicionless searches, drug testing, and the use of surveillance technologies in America's schools.

The drug testing and locker-search provisions contained in the bill are the brainchild of Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), one of Congress' top cheerleaders for the war on drugs. His "School Violence Prevention Act" (Sec. 1611) opens up funds under the Safe and Drug Free Schools grant program to be used for "testing a student for illegal drug use or inspecting a student's locker for guns, explosives, other weapons, or illegal drugs...." Sen. Abraham was courteous enough to require the searches and drug testing to be consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and also mentions parental consent, but does not require it.

Additionally, S. 254 includes a provision (Sec. 1656) to establish in New Mexico the School Security Technology Center at the Sandia National Laboratories, in partnership with the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. The center would be a joint venture between the Justice Department, Department of Education and the Department of Energy, with the Attorney General in charge of administration. Although initially proposed in S. 638 by Sen. Bingaman (D-NM), appropriations for the center were incorporated into the Violent and Juvenile Offender Act.

If the center is kept in the legislation, America's schools promise to be on the cutting edge of surveillance and drug detection technology. According to the May 6th issue of the Drug Detection Report, Sandia Laboratories has developed instruments known as "surface acoustic wave devices or integrated acoustic chemical sensors" that can detect illicit drugs on the skin. The sensor system can reportedly detect trace levels of airborne drugs as well. The center, proposed to receive $11.4 million over three years, will also promote onsite testing of students' hair, according to the Report.

S. 254 would appropriate $30 million over the next three years for grants to local schools for security assessments and technical assistance for "the development of a comprehensive school security plan from the School Security Technology Center."

A House version of S. 254 has not been introduced yet, but stay tuned to the Week Online for news on any movement of the bill.

The text and status of all federal legislation can be found online at http://thomas.loc.gov/.

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Issue #92, 5/28/99 Thanks, and Another Special Offer Through June 30 | Medical Marijuana Activist Convicted in Federal Court: Jury Not Allowed to Hear Evidence of Medicinal Use | Four Guards Charged in Beating Death of Nassau County Inmate | Senate Juvenile Justice Bill Passes in Wake of Colorado School Shooting, Would Dramatically Increase Surveillance and Drug Testing | New York Assembly Speaker Says No to Rockefeller Drug Law Reform...Or Does He? | Policy Change May Allow for Non-Government Funded Medical Marijuana Research | Conviction of Juror in Nullification Case Overturned | New York: No Rockefeller Reform This Year, Presentations in Westchester Area by Reconsider | Editorial: Growing Pains
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