Random School Drug Testing Unconstitutional

Random School Drug Testing Unconstitutional
Posted by CN Staff on March 13, 2008 at 13:44:51 PT
By Rachel La Corte, Associated Press Writer
Source: Associated Press
Washington -- The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that random drug testing of student athletes is unconstitutional, finding that each has "a genuine and fundamental privacy interest in controlling his or her own bodily functions."The court ruled unanimously in favor of some parents and students in the lower Columbia River town of Cathlamet who were fighting the tiny Wahkiakum School District's policy of random urine tests of middle school and high school student athletes.
The high court wrote, "we can conceive of no way to draw a principled line permitting drug testing only student athletes.""If we were to allow random drug testing here, what prevents school districts from either later drug testing students participating in any extracurricular activities, as federal courts now allow, or testing the entire student population?" Justice Richard Sanders wrote for the court's plurality. Joining him were Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justices Susan Owens and Tom Chambers.Two families with high school students sued the district. Wahkiakum County Superior Court Judge Douglas Goelz ruled in 2006 that testing students was reasonable after less-intrusive methods failed to address the drug threat. The case was appealed directly to the state Supreme Court.Messages left with the school district and with the lawyer for the school district were not immediately returned.The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington represented the parents. ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said the case was precedent-setting for the state, and "as a result of this ruling we don't expect to see other districts pursuing suspicionless testing programs."However, the nine-member court was split on whether the plurality ruling was too sweeping. There were three separate concurrences, and at least one justice said random suspicionless drug testing would be OK under "carefully defined circumstances."The sticking point between the ruling by Sanders and a concurrence written by Justice Barbara Madsen was over a "special needs exception" as in federal law, which would allow random searches in some circumstances.Sanders' ruling says there is no need to create that type of exception in Washington law."Simply passing muster under the federal constitution does not ensure the survival of the school district's policy under our state constitution," Sanders wrote."In the context of randomly drug testing student athletes, we see no reason to invent such a broad exception to the warrant requirement as such an alleged exception cannot be found in the common law," he wrote. Madsen, joined by Justices Charles Johnson, Mary Fairhurst and Justice Pro Tem Bobbe Bridge said a narrowly drawn special needs exception would be consistent with Washington law.In the end, however, she agreed with the result reached by Sanders' ruling because "there is no special need that justifies suspicionless drug testing of Wahkiakum School District's student athletes.""In particular, the school district has failed to show that a suspicion-based regime of drug testing is inadequate to achieve its legitimate objectives," Madsen wrote.Madsen also said that even if the district could demonstrate a suspicion-based testing program wouldn't work, "the balance of interests at stake weighs against allowing suspicionless drug testing, taking into account the student's privacy interest, the nature of the intrusion, and its limited efficacy as compared with a search regime based on individualized suspicion."Madsen wrote that if there is not an observable drug problem in the school, "the school's interest in detecting drug use does not justify nonconsensual drug testing."She wrote that if drug use is a problem, then schools have the individualized suspicion necessary to require a drug test."Thus, it is difficult to see how a suspicionless drug testing program is necessary," she wrote.Justice Jim Johnson wrote in a separate concurrence that a student's right to privacy is "not absolute and thus not all drug testing programs are invalid.""Under carefully defined circumstances, a random suspicionless drug testing program for high school student athletes, in my opinion, might also be implemented that will meet applicable constitutional requirements," he wrote, noting that the Legislature might want to consider such a program.The district started random testing of student athletes' urine in October 1999. Positive tests can get a student suspended from a team.Chambers, who signed Sanders' ruling, also wrote a separate concurrence in which he noted that "a majority of my colleagues has found a greater privacy interest in a person's urine than they recently found in a person's saliva and the DNA ... it contains."He was referring to previous cases, including a ruling last year in which the court found that privacy laws weren't violated by police who obtained a murder suspect's DNA by tricking him into licking an envelope."I find the juxtaposition of these two opinions paradoxical," he wrote.___The state case is Hans York et al v. Wahkiakum School District, No. 78946-1.___On the Net:Supreme Court: http://www.courts.wa.govComplete Title: WA High Court Says Random School Drug Testing Unconstitutional Source: Associated Press (Wire)Author: Rachel La Corte, Associated Press WriterPublished: March 13, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Associated Press CannabisNews Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #7 posted by JohnO on March 17, 2008 at 07:21:39 PT:
OK every body get back to class. 
"there is no special need that justifies suspicionless drug testing of Wahkiakum School District's student athletes." Smoke m if you got m, rock on!"In particular, the school district has failed to show that a suspicion-based regime of drug testing is inadequate to achieve its legitimate objectives," This is a good precedent for an attack on the rest of that piss program. It seems to me that if they couldn't prove the system they have now didn't work, they also can't say whether it works at all. That's a misappropriation of resources worth a second look. 
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on March 14, 2008 at 08:31:10 PT
urine testing
It's funny that they always focus on the students' urine.If anyone's going to be tested it should be government judges and lawyers (DAs). They are the ones who would do the most damages if "corrupted" by personal drug use, since they are charged with sending drug users off to prison.They should have to pee in cup every morning upon arrival at the courthouse.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on March 13, 2008 at 20:10:44 PT
That was "Thanks" to you for the link. (Although I'm thankful for Norml, too, of course, and the work they do. Paul Armentano, especially!) 
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Comment #4 posted by Hope on March 13, 2008 at 20:08:11 PT
And this...
Marijuana panel to discuss trend in arrests
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on March 13, 2008 at 20:01:12 PT
Linking from Potpal's link (thanks) to Norml
to this Officials Ignore Marijuana VotesA lot of comments. As one might expect.
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Comment #2 posted by potpal on March 13, 2008 at 18:33:04 PT
what good are laws anyway... 
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Comment #1 posted by NikoKun on March 13, 2008 at 16:21:06 PT
Another win for privacy!
Thank god... I was starting to think our personal rights and privacy meant nothing. -_-
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