Supreme Court Ruling Will Allow Schools To Conduct Student Drug Tests
The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that school officials can require students who participate in extracurricular activities to undergo "regular or random" drug tests, which the court said is a "safety and health" measure to protect students, not an invasion of privacy, the Los Angeles Times reports. The 5-4 decision "clears the way" for school boards nationwide to adopt drug testing policies at secondary schools. The ruling yesterday upheld a policy adopted by the Tecumseh, Okla., school board in 1998. The policy requires students in the band and the choir, cheerleaders and members of groups such as the Academic Team and Future Farmers of America to undergo regular drug tests, which detect illicit drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, but not alcohol. Under the policy, individuals who test positive must meet with school officials, but police would not receive the results. In the first two years, the school tested 505 students, and three tested positive.
In the case, Board of Education v. Earls, Lindsay Earls, a student at Tecumseh High School, challenged the drug testing policy as "humiliating, useless and an invasion of privacy" after the school forced her to undergo a drug test as a sophomore. Earls, today a student at Dartmouth College, had participated in the choir and the National Honor Society at the Oklahoma school and tested negative. The lawsuit argued that the policy "violated" the Fourth Amendment clause that prohibits unreasonable searches by the government (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 6/28). Earls lost her case in federal district court in Oklahoma City, but the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the Tecumseh policy "violated the Fourth Amendment (Greenhouse, New York Times, 6/28). In the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the Tecumseh policy "reasonably serves the school district's important interest in detecting and preventing drug use" (Greenberger, Wall Street Journal, 6/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.