Random Testing is Not the Right Response

Random Testing is Not the Right Response
Posted by FoM on March 31, 2002 at 09:35:37 PT
A Register-Guard Editorial 
Source: Register-Guard
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide how far public schools can go in imposing random drug tests on students who participate in extracurricular activities - from glee clubs to Future Homemakers of America. The court should limit schools' power to require the tests.The case involves Lindsay Earls, a former high school student from Tecumseh, Okla., who challenged the local school board's requirement that all students seeking to participate in school activities submit to random drug tests.
Earls, now a freshman in college, had wanted to march in the school band, sing in the school choir and compete on her school's academic team, but refused to submit to random drug tests that she found degrading and insulting. The local school board argues that the testing is an effective deterrent that helps teens resist peer pressure to use drugs.Meanwhile, the Oregon Court of Appeals is weighing a separate case involving 17-year-old Ginelle Weber. She and her parents are challenging the Oakridge School District's random drug testing policy for student athletes.Weber competed on the high school's track and basketball teams her freshman year and had earned a spot on its volleyball team as a sophomore when she refused to consent to a random drug testing program for student athletes. She has remained on the sidelines for two years because she believes the district has no right to subject her to drug testing unless it has reason to suspect she is using drugs.While there are important differences, both cases reflect an increasing drug-testing effort by schools nationwide. It's a disturbing trend and one that does not appear to be a reasonable or effective response to the scourge of illegal drug abuse among young people.Some background is important to understanding these cases. In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a policy adopted by a school board in Vernonia, Ore., requiring random drug tests of all student athletes. The majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the policy was not an "unreasonable search" under the Fourth Amendment because student athletes had lower expectation of privacy than other students and because illegal drug use by athletes might contribute to sports-related injuries.The Tecumseh, Okla., policy, adopted three years later, took drug testing to a new level, requiring it as a condition of participation in all of the district's extracurricular activities, including sports, bands, academic teams, chorus, cheerleading and, yes, even Future Homemakers of America.The Supreme Court should reject the district's argument that this is a justifiable response to the problem of youth drug abuse. Too many youngsters use drugs - from inhalants to ecstasy. But taking urine samples from students seeking to be active in school, without any reason to suspect actual drug use - is an inappropriate and invasive overreaction.The most effective way to keep kids away from drugs is just the opposite - finding ways to get them involved in the extracurricular activities that can keep kids active and engaged and less vulnerable to the temptation to use drugs.Students also have a constitutional right to privacy and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment makes no distinction between students or nonstudents, much less between youths who want to participate in school activities and those who don't.The legal and logical lines of demarcation are blurrier in the Oakridge case. The district's policy was drawn up as part of a three-year Oregon Health Sciences University study to determine effectiveness of such programs.While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that testing athletes doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment, Ginelle Weber and her parents argue that the Oregon Constitution provides expanded privacy protections against government search and seizure.It's certainly true that Oregon courts have generally resisted attempts to weaken Fourth Amendment protections to balance personal freedoms vs. public protections. But it's far from clear whether appeals judges will agree with a lower court ruling that said the state's constitution does not prohibit suspicion-free drug testing of athletes.Regardless of how Weber's appeal turns out, the Oakridge district and others across the country should stop short of making drug testing a routine part of the high school experience. Surely there are better, more effective ways to prevent illegal drug use by students.Complete Title: Of Drugs and Schools: Random Testing is Not the Right ResponseSource: Register-Guard, The (OR)Published: March 30, 2002Copyright: 2002 The Register-GuardContact: rgletters guardnet.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:ACLU High C and a Drug Test With Druggies Indignities - Drug Testing for Everybody 
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