Column: Suspicion-Free Drug Testing Violates Right

Column: Suspicion-Free Drug Testing Violates Right
Posted by FoM on January 26, 2000 at 07:34:19 PT
By Jon Linder, The Daily Cardinal U. Wisconsin
Source: U-WIRE
The Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure does not pertain to student athletes. At least that is what some school districts and courts believe. In 1995, then seventh grader James Acton filed suit against the Veronia School District in Oregon because he did not want to participate in its mandatory student athlete drug-testing program. Why? 
"Because I feel that they have no reason to think that I was taking drugs," said Acton during the trial. The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 margin, sided with Veronia, contending that Acton and others should be subjected to drug testing--even if drug use is not suspected--simply because they are athletes. Instead of focusing on the dangers of drugs or working to find real solutions to keep kids clean, student athletes have become the latest scapegoats for drug addiction. The court has ruled on a variety of Fourth Amendment cases dealing with drug testing in recent years and has allowed the practice without prior suspicion only given a "special" circumstance and a relatively non-intrusive procedure. With good reason, the special circumstance standard has been upheld for federal customs officers who carry a gun or are involved in drug interdiction and for railway workers involved in accidents. The Supreme Court, however, has not allowed suspicion-free drug tests for individuals running for state or local office. The guidelines for drug testing students were more specifically established by two later denials of review involving separate Indiana school districts. In those cases, the court allowed drug tests for students involved in any extracurricular activity, but did not permit them to be a part of the disciplinary procedure for students who had been suspended. So what exactly is the "special" condition that lessens the legal rights of those students who participate in extracurricular activities or, more specifically, sports? In the Veronia case, the court pointed out that students are "committed to the temporary custody of the state as schoolmaster" and that by choosing to be athletes they agree to an even higher level of scrutiny. Temporary custody, though, seems to imply a position of parental guidance and an inherent level of trust. By presuming that an entire group is criminal by its very existence, however, drug testing violates this trust and any authority of custody. Student athletes do agree to certain constraints for the right to participate, but physicals, behavior codes and the athletic limelight should not be a launching pad toward the lessening of constitutional rights. The court's opinion stressed that "it seems to us self-evident that a drug problem largely fueled by the 'role model' effect of athletes' drug use, and of particular danger to athletes, is effectively addressed by making sure that athletes do not use drugs." Eureka! At long last the grand kingpin has been found! It is not drugs that are the problem, but those stinking athletes. If we make sure that high school athletes are clean, the rest of the world will follow suit, because, after all, no one makes a decision without the consent of an athlete. True, drug use increases the likelihood of injury for athletes, but this safety criterion should not set athletes apart. After all, drug use is a danger to the health and performance of all students--not simply athletes. In the dissenting opinion of the court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted the court traditionally weighs the effectiveness of a suspicion-based search against the necessity of blanket searches. She went on to state that the majority of the evidence of a drug problem in Veronia would have been ample support for a suspicion-based search, thus preserving the rights of the general student athlete population--the vast majority of which are not drug abusers. Never mind. The court has decreed that if you are a student athlete, you are presumed to be guilty--not only drug addiction, but of actually causing the nation's drug problem. Remember, at the time this case took place the media was busy latching on to the seemingly endless stream of professional athletes violating their league's drug policies. It is almost as if, exasperated by the 'rotten role models' on television, the community of Veronia is attempting to vicariously punish the naughty athletes who are ruining their children. As a result, insecurity and suspicion-free searches have replaced a watchful eye and a level of trust as staples of the student-to-adult relationship. The obvious retort is "so what?" If the kids have nothing to hide why not just be tested and prove it? Why should they need to be? Even student athletes deserve rights. (U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis.(C) 2000 The Daily Cardinal via U-WIRE  Copyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc.Related Articles:ACLU, Parents Challenge Drug-Testing Policy - 12/18/99 To Sue Over Student Drug Testing - 8/18/99 
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Comment #1 posted by Steven M. Cooper on May 14, 2000 at 16:59:06 PT:
Suspicion-Free Drug Testing
Just another example of our rights being whittled away a bit at a time! ANY drug testing other than for probable cause violates our Rights. Where is it all going to end?
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