Skip to main content

Drug Testing: Washington State Supreme Court Rejects Random Tests of Students

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #528)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

In a March 13 ruling, the Washington state Supreme Court has rejected the random, suspicionless drug testing of high school students. In so doing, the court threw out a Wahkiakum School District policy in effect since 1999 that forced would-be student athletes to participate in drug tests if they wished to participate in school sports. The state constitution offers protections to students that federal courts have failed to find in the Fourth Amendment, the court held.

drug testing lab
The ruling came in York v. Wahkiakum, in which the parents of student athletes Aaron and Abraham York and Tristan Schneider sued the school district, arguing that the program violated the state constitution.

In particular, York and Schneider argued that the random suspicionless drug tests violated Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution: "SECTION 7 INVASION OF PRIVATE AFFAIRS OR HOME PROHIBITED. No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law."

As the Washington state Supreme Court noted, the US Supreme Court had held that requiring student athletes to submit to random drug tests is constitutional: "The United States Supreme Court has held such activity does not violate the Fourth Amendment to the federal constitution," wrote Justice Gerry Alexander for the majority. "But we have never decided whether a suspicionless, random drug search of student athletes violates article I, section 7 of our state constitution. Therefore, we must decide whether our state constitution follows the federal standard or provides more protection to students in the state of Washington."

It does indeed, the court held. "The school district asks us to adopt a 'special needs' exception to the warrant requirement to allow random and suspicionless drug testing," wrote Justice Gerry Alexander in the majority opinion. "But we do not recognize such an exception and hold warrantless random and suspicionless drug testing of student athletes violates the Washington State Constitution."

It will be back to the drawing board for school districts in Washington that currently have random drug test policies, thanks to the state Supreme Court.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder if that argument can be used to stop random, suspicionless drug testing of employees, too. Although employers are not government agencies (well, 2 out of three in WA aren't, anyway). Does constitutional law apply only to interaction between governments and citizens? Or does it extend to all interactions between people including between employers and employees?

Sat, 03/22/2008 - 5:25pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It is my firm belief that random tests of any kind violate our Fourth Amendment rights. If the government cannot execute random, unwarranted searches, how can we possibly exempt employers and others from the same standard? Any way you cut it, it is a violation of privacy without just or reasonable cause.

To say that employers and others outside of government and law enforcement do not need to be held to the same standard means that we don't really have a Fourth Amendment right in our society, which is ridiculous and scary.

In addition, it is preposterous to hold businesses liable for the (damaging) actions of employees who may have been under some type of influence when the employer could not have reasonably had a suspicion of a problem with that employee. The situation we're in today is strictly the result of people and (tort) lawyers trying to get money out of whomever they can imagine to sue over the actions of a single individual. This also drives up the cost of insurance, the cost of doing business and the cost of living in general for all of us.

Tort law is the problem in all this, and until we finally wake up and stop the lawsuits and recover our Constitutional rights, this abomination will continue. Shame on the Supreme Court for allowing it in the first place!

Sun, 03/23/2008 - 11:05am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)


Wed, 01/07/2009 - 1:55pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.