Pubdate: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 Source: Ventura County Star (CA) Copyright: 2002, The E.W. Scripps Co. Contact: http://www.staronline.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/479 Author: Associated Press Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/testing.htm (Drug Testing) COURT CONSIDERS EXPANDED SCHOOL DRUG TESTS 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 students. 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 said. 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 practice. 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: www.supremecourtus.gov. Appeals court ruling: www.uscourts.gov/links.html and click on 10th Circuit.