School Drug Testing Headed for Supreme Court Again 11/9/01

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


The US Supreme Court agreed this week to hear a case that will allow it to refine its rules on what constitutes acceptable drug testing of high school students. In an Oregon case in 1995, the Supreme Court held that student athletes could be tested because drug use was found to be prevalent at the school in question. But since then, school districts around the country have attempted to expand student drug testing to include students involved in other extracurricular activities, students who drive cars to school, and, in some cases, random, suspicionless tests of all students.

By agreeing to hear the Oklahoma case, the Supreme Court has signaled that it is ready to revisit its 1995 ruling on drug testing. The court will rule on what circumstances justify the intrusion on individual students' rights posed by drug screening.

In the present case, Pottawatomie County Board of Education vs. Earls, officials in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that the school district's scheme to randomly test all students involved in extracurricular activities violated constitutional prohibitions on unreasonable searches ( Under the district's policy, any student wishing to participate in any extracurricular activity was required to take an initial drug test and agree to be randomly tested in the future.

School officials argued that students who participate in extracurricular activities are special students and they represent the school. "We thought this would give them an incentive to say no [to drugs] if they wanted to participate," Tecumseh superintendent of schools Tom Wilsie told the Washington Post.

Wilsie told the Post the school board approved the drug testing policy because it believed it had a growing drug problem, but there has been little evidence to back that assertion. "Basically, when you feel like you have a problem, you want to take some sort of preventive measures," he said. The school district tested about 500 students from 1998 to 2000 and found only four positive drug tests, for marijuana and painkillers.

Students who objected to the drug testing policy gained representation from the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project, which will argue the case before the Supreme Court. "The Fourth Amendment protects our privacy by preventing the government from searching us unless there is reason to believe we have done something wrong," said Graham Boyd, who filed the suit and who is the national director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Program. "Special-needs exceptions are very few and have to be proven."

"If there is no valid claim for concerns for safety, it becomes an empty act and therefore violates the Fourth Amendment," Michael Salem, another attorney for the ACLU who worked on the case told the Post. "These kids were considered envoys. But the school's public image is not a sufficient basis for engaging in blanket testing."

In overturning the policy, the 10th Circuit said the school district had no valid justification for random, suspicionless drug tests of students. With a variety of drug testing schemes in places in schools across the country, this case gives the Supreme Court a chance to refine and redefine the rules of school drug testing.

"The issue presented is of major importance... to all public schools in the nation which are responsible for the safety of the students under their supervision on a daily basis and must address drug use which threatens their safety," the school told the Supreme Court in urging it to accept the appeal.

Students in Tecumseh will have to do without that extra measure of security for the time being. The 10th Circuit ruling ended the district's drug testing program -- at least for now.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #210, 11/9/01 Proposed Marijuana Penalty Increase at Ohio University Meets Stiff Student Opposition | FDA Approves Study of Ecstasy as Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | School Drug Testing Headed for Supreme Court Again | Walters Drug Czar Nomination Approved in Senate Committee Vote | Ashcroft Sics DEA on Oregon Suicide Doctors | Drug Reformers, Colombia, and the Anti-Terrorism Act | Indonesia Marches Backward on Drug Policy | Election Report: New York City Drug Reformers, Virginia Reams Reeferendum Buried by Anthrax and Terrorist Attacks | Amnesty International Drug War Resolution Passes Northeast Regional Conference, Goes on to National Meeting | Methadone and Cipro: Patients Needing Both Should Consult Physicians About Possible Drug Interaction | Massive Military Presence and Abuses Continue in Bolivia's Chapare Region | Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics Online | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]