Court's Stance on Searches Evolves

Court's Stance on Searches Evolves
Posted by CN Staff on June 28, 2002 at 11:36:15 PT
By Neil A. Lewis
Source: New York Times 
It was not until 1985 that students had any rights to be free of random searches in public schools. Principals and teachers were thought of as surrogate parents, and thus could legally order a student to open a locker or turn out a backpack, even if there was no reason to suspect a problem.But the Supreme Court ruled that year that school administrators were not really in loco parentis or acting in place of parents. The school staff members were, in fact, agents of the government, the court said, and were bound by the constitution's limits against intrusive and unreasonable searches. 
The court's view has evolved over the years, and the reasoning behind today's ruling all but restores the situation to what it was before 1985, with school officials able to conduct random searches of students to maintain order.The 5-to-4 decision today upheld the right of the Pottawatamie School board in Tecumseh, Okla., to conduct random drug tests on any student who is involved in an extracurricular activity, estimated to be the majority of the school population.The ruling was an extension of a 1995 case in which the court first substantially increased the authority of school officials to conduct searches. At that time, it said student athletes could be randomly tested for drugs. Today's ruling explicitly expanded those who are covered from the likes of the football and tennis teams to those who belong to the Spanish Club and the school's Future Farmers of America chapter.Legal scholars and even some of the justices said the logic behind the expansion almost certainly meant that officials may now, without running afoul of the constitution, randomly search any student.Prof. Yale Kamisar, of the Michigan and San Diego University law schools, said the reasoning of the five-member majority meant that there was little question that a program of testing all students would be approved by the court.During the oral argument in the case in March, Justice David J. Souter said that any decision extending drug testing to those involved in extracurricular activities would inevitably allow the testing to be schoolwide.Surveys have shown that about 5 percent of schools nationwide have performed drug tests on student athletes and an additional 2 percent have been testing students involved in other extracurricular activities.It was unclear whether many school districts would now put programs in place. "Schools now have the go ahead to do this, but many won't because it is so costly," said Michael Carr, spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He said that drug testing kits typically cost $30 to $60 per individual.His greater worry, Mr. Carr added, is that students who use drugs will now avoid extracurricular activities.Edwin Darden, a senior staff attorney for National School Boards Association which sought the authority for increased testing, said, "This is not the kind of thing that will become a standard among school districts."Mr. Darden also cited the cost of drug testing as an inhibiting factor. He praised the ruling, saying, "There doesn't have to be a full-scale drug abuse problem. What that says is you can preemptively and penetratively act against drugs and it gives the local community the right to make that decision." Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union, who had argued against the searches before the Supreme Court, said, "Every available study demonstrates that the single best way to prevent drug use among students is to engage them in extracurricular activities." Mr. Boyd said he hoped that "school boards will follow the advice and pediatricians and other experts by sticking to solutions that work."One group delighted by the ruling was the Drug and Alcohol Industry Association, which expects a surge in testing among the nation's schools. The association, a coalition of private drug-testing companies, had already scheduled a workshop in Washington on July 18 for school board members and principals on how to use dug-testing programs."We've heard from a lot of school people who wanted to put testing programs in place but were waiting to see how the court ruled in this case," said Laura E. Shelton, the association's executive director."We are so excited to be able to present this much-needed information to testing and education professionals. Drug and alcohol testing has shown to be a very effective means of deterring drug use, and the nation's children need to live healthy and drug and alcohol free lives."Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Neil A. Lewis Published: June 28, 2002Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Site:ACLU The Drug War Invades The Chess Club Tests Backed for Broader Pool of Students Expands School Drug Tests Court Okays Random Drug Testing
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Comment #1 posted by lilgrasshoppah on June 29, 2002 at 06:07:45 PT:
This has been said before, but I'll say it again..
This ruling declares open season on America's children. More then ever, they are the prey of sexual deviants.The rage I feel (not to mention disgust) knows no boundry, nor mode of expression, except to greet obscenity with obscenity.
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