Drug Testing Policy Debated Before Supreme Court

Drug Testing Policy Debated Before Supreme Court
Posted by FoM on March 19, 2002 at 14:57:08 PT
By Jim Burns, Senior Staff Writer
Is it constitutional to impose a mandatory drug test for high school students who want to participate in extracurricular activities - even activities as innocent as the school choir? That's the question the U.S. Supreme Court tackled Tuesday in a case pitting former Tecumseh, Okla., high school student Lindsay Earls against school administrators. In 1999, Earls, then a high school sophomore, was forced to provide a urine sample for a drug test in order to join the Tecumseh High School choir and band.
In 1998, the Tecumseh school board had ruled that students in grades seven through 12 had to be tested for drugs in order to participate in after-school activities. The rule applied to athletes and those participating in any other extracurricular activities where students competed against students from other schools, including band, pompom, Future Farmers of America, and Future Homemakers of America.Earls, along with her sister Lacey, and another student Daniel James, sued the school district, claiming the drug-testing rule violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable searches and seizures. The students claimed that if there was no reason to suspect they had used drugs, the school had no right to test them.A federal district judge in Oklahoma City upheld the school district's policy, but that decision was later overturned by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo. Drug testing in Tecumseh has been suspended since that time.Opponents of the drug testing policy include liberal groups, (American Civil Liberties Union, National Education Association), conservative (Rutherford Institute), and libertarian (Cato Institute). However, during oral arguments in the case Tuesday, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and liberal Justice Stephen Breyer agreed the policy might be warranted to reduce drug use among students."You think life and death is not at issue in the fight against drugs?" Scalia asked an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer.The Oklahoma school district "did what I would have done," Breyer added.Theodore Olsen, The Bush administration's top lawyer, argued in favor of the Oklahoma school district, pointing out that a poll from two years ago showed that 54 percent of high school seniors had used illegal drugs at some point in their lifetime, and a quarter of the students had used drugs within the last month.The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which filed a brief in the case, is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw the random drug testing."The primary goal of schools should be educating students, not policing them," said Donna Shea, Legal Director of the NORML Foundation. "Voluntary participation in extracurricular activities alone should not reduce a student's expectation of privacy nor forfeit his or her Fourth Amendment guarantees to be free from unreasonable searches."In its legal brief, NORML argued, "drug testing non-athlete students without cause does not fit within the closely guarded category of constitutionally-permitted warrant-less searches."But Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.), who serves on House Speaker Dennis Hastert's "Task Force For A Drug-Free America," disagrees. Peterson, who attended Tuesday's hearing, said school districts have a right to implement a "reasonable random drug-testing policy" for students participating in extracurricular activities."Student drug testing is not about punishing students but about saving lives," Peterson said. "Random drug testing is a way of life in the military and the workplace. "Drug testing has been used effectively in the military to cut down on rampant drug use and is the only tool that will be effective in making our schools drug free," Peterson said.Peterson added that schools could not afford to "sit on our hands" while school age kids are dying each year from drug use."Student drug testing saves lives, and the sooner that schools implement responsible drug testing programs, the more lives will be saved," he said. "We should not sit on our hands and let this epidemic grow when we have the tools available to combat drug use and save our next generation."Complete Title: School's Drug Testing Policy Debated Before Supreme CourtSource: CNSNews.comAuthor: Jim Burns, Senior Staff WriterPublished: March 19, 2002Copyright: 1998-2002 Cybercast News ServiceWebsite: shogenson cnsnews.comRelated Articles & Web Sites:ACLU: Institute: Court Reviews Student Drug Tests Drug Testing Faces Test in Court to Weigh Drug Testing by Schools 
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