Pubdate: Wed, 20 Mar 2002
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2002, The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several Supreme Court justices embraced the idea of 
random drug tests for students involved in after-school activities ranging 
from band to chess club, a major step toward allowing drug testing for all 

A lawyer for a rural Oklahoma school district argued Tuesday that random 
drug tests for some students was a reasonable response to a general problem 
of drug use among young people.

If the court agrees, it would allow far broader scrutiny of the majority of 
the nation's 24 million high school students who participate in 
extracurricular activities.

"Do you think any school in the United States does not have a drug 
problem." Justice Antonin Scalia asked rhetorically at one point. "The 
danger is getting kids used to the drug culture."

The court ruled in 1995 that schools may test athletes for drugs, making an 
exception to the general rule that authorities must have some specific 
reason to suspect wrongdoing before targeting someone for search.

The court found that the school in the first 1995 case had a widespread 
drug problem, and student athletes were among the users. Students who 
routinely strip naked in a locker room have a lower expectation of privacy 
than other students, the court reasoned then. Students who used drugs while 
playing vigorous sports could also be a danger to themselves or others, it 

Justice Stephen Breyer suggested the Oklahoma school district took the 
logical next step in light of the earlier ruling. Breyer voted with the 
majority to approve athlete testing, and he noted Tuesday, "It's hard for 
me to see if I came out one way (then) I'd come out different here."

The court's ruling in the current case, expected by summer, should fill in 
a major question left from the 1995 ruling: whether the factors that made 
drug testing acceptable for athletes apply to other after-school 
activities, or even students at large.

Wider drug testing remains relatively rare among the nation's 15,500 public 
school districts. Lower courts have reached differing conclusions about the 

Some members of the Tecumseh, Okla., school board wanted to test all 
students, but lawyers advised limiting tests to students involved in 
competitive after-school activities on the theory that they, like athletes, 
had opened themselves to greater scrutiny than had students at large.

The case is Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of 
Pottawatomie County v. Earls, 01-332.

On the Net:

Supreme Court:

Appeals court ruling: and click on 10th Circuit.