Court Rulings Signal a Shift on Random Drug Tests 

Court Rulings Signal a Shift on Random Drug Tests 
Posted by FoM on March 25, 2001 at 11:20:17 PT
By Jodi Wilgoren
Source: New York Times
Six years after a United States Supreme Court ruling upheld random drug testing of student athletes, spurring hundreds of school districts to adopt similar policies, several recent court decisions have struck down broader programs that test nonathletes. Some experts say the newer rulings reflect a shift in the public's approach to preventing drug use.Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, said the Tecumseh, Okla., school district violated students' constitutional rights by requiring drug tests for anyone who participated in interscholastic activities. 
Early this month, a federal judge rejected mandatory drug testing for all students in grades seven through 12 in Lockney, Tex., a town northeast of Lubbock. And state courts in Indiana, New Jersey, Oregon and Pennsylvania have expressed similar reservations about such policies in the last seven months."The political and legal atmosphere is really changing," said Graham A. Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's drug policy litigation project, which has brought most of the school cases. "There's not just the knee-jerk reaction against any effort to challenge a policy that purports to be about pursuing the war on drugs."The move toward drug testing, and the recent rulings against it, come amid a broader school safety crackdown that has restricted student freedom. Districts are increasing the use of metal detectors and locker searches, and sometimes discipline students for even speaking or writing about violence. At the same time, however, the national attitude toward the drug war has shown signs of changing. Several governors have recently suggested a shift in emphasis from punishment to prevention, and the Supreme Court has rejected random drug tests twice this term, in cases involving pregnant women and highway checkpoints.For educators, the question of drug testing is part of a perennial balancing act between protecting students' rights and protecting their safety."How do we help them stay out of trouble, stay off drugs, and still respect their privacy and teach them about their constitutional rights?" said Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School Boards Association, which helped defend the Oklahoma policy but opposes testing for all students as in Lockney and another small Texas town, Sundown, southwest of Lubbock. "In the public schools, it's a wonderful place for students to learn about life in a democracy," Ms. Underwood said. "You don't want students to feel like they are in a police state."On the other hand, Lee Veness, a lawyer who defended the Lockney district, said: "Why should we only pick on athletes? You either test them all or none."Districts began adopting suspicionless drug testing in large numbers after the 1995 Supreme Court decision that said mandatory testing of athletes in Vernonia, Ore., was legal because athletes were at the center of a drug problem in the district, and because the students had accepted some invasion of privacy by volunteering for teams where they shared locker-room showers.In 1998, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, upheld an Indiana program testing students in nonathletic extracurricular programs, which set off a wave of such policies around the nation. (The Indiana policy was challenged again on state constitutional grounds and has been struck down, a decision that is on appeal.)The federal decision in the Indiana case conflicts with the more recent ruling in the Oklahoma case, laying the groundwork for a possible return to the United States Supreme Court on the question of testing for nonathletes. (The Oklahoma ruling also said the district had failed to prove it had a significant drug problem caused by those who were being tested, leaving open the possibility that a similar policy at another school might be upheld.)"It goes back and forth; it's kind of a pendulum," Ms. Underwood said. "We're establishing the boundaries."Though the crucial legal questions concern where students' constitutional rights diverge from adults' rights and how schools are to handle their "in loco parentis" responsibilities, there is also a debate over whether drug testing of high school students is an effective deterrent.Student surveys indicate that drug testing reduces drug use, but social workers and other experts say testing can be counterproductive by making drugs seem more appealing to rebellious teenagers or driving them to harder-core drugs, like heroin, that are less easily detected in urine tests.Last year, 41 percent of high school seniors and 36 percent of sophomores said they had used drugs in the past year, down from 42 percent of seniors and 39 percent of sophomores in 1997, according to the Monitoring the Future study at the University of Michigan. Among eighth graders, 20 percent of those surveyed last year said they had used drugs in the previous 12 months, down from a high of 24 percent in 1996."There's a drug problem in America's schools," said Linda M. Meoli of the Center for Education Law, which defended the school district in the case in Tecumseh, a rural town about 45 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. "They have drug dogs, they have policemen, they have cameras, and there are still drugs in the school. They have to try everything they possibly can."Lindsay Earls, the Tecumseh student who brought the lawsuit, succumbed to her third drug test on Tuesday, the day before her court victory. It will be her last, as she will graduate in May and will head for the University of Oklahoma, where she plans to major in political science before going to law school."It's not any of their business what medications I'm taking, whether or not I'm using drugs," Ms. Earls, 18, said. "I feel like that's my parents' business." "I've seen that you really can change someone's life through the law," she said. "Our Constitution's a beautiful thing, and people need to be willing to stand up and fight for it."Complete Title: Court Rulings Signal a Shift on Random Drug Tests in SchoolsSource: New York Times (NY) Author: Jodi WilgorenPublished: March 25, 2001 Fax: (212) 556-3622 Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company Address: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036 Contact: letters Website: Forum: Articles & Web Site:A.C.L.U. Rejects School Drug Testing Drug Testing Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by meagain on March 26, 2001 at 15:13:17 PT
I know
If you think marijuana is a problem start drug testing and you will have more problems like cocaine meth crack huffin paint sniffin glue...drugs that are out of the system in 72 hours unlike marijuana which can stay in the system for more than 30 days. Thats is what drug testing causes worse drug use because the people will find a substitute for marijuana which is even safer than alcohol. I have seen this happen in our factories..DRUG TESTING IS CACKA NO NO
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by sm247 on March 26, 2001 at 15:01:25 PT
NO test
... stand and fight we will. Nothing shows a lack of faith, trust, and integrity than drug testing. Yet people like our athletic director stands before the public and says that the public supports it NO THEY DONT. 99% of the people I have asked say drug testing is unconstitutional. 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: