Pubdate: Tue, 05 Feb 2002
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2002 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Kate Carter


The legal director for Georgia's American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 
spoke out Monday evening against the Clarke County School District's 
preliminary plans to implement unannounced random searches by drug dogs and 
random drug testing at the county's two high schools.

Invited by the University of Georgia chapter of the ACLU, Gerry Weber 
called on the group to organize against the school district's proposed 
action against drugs, and "poke holes in what they're trying to do."

Weber cited a Clayton County case in which fifth-graders were 
strip-searched over some missing money, and said, "It shows if you hop on a 
slippery slope, how far you might fall."

Clarke Schools Superintendent Lewis Holloway was unavailable Monday, but he 
said in December that he was hoping to implement random drug dog searches 
soon after school commenced in January. According to several school 
district officials Monday, no further planning on the matter has taken 
place since December.

"We can't move forward until there's a decision from the board about 
whether they want it," said deputy superintendent Ernest Hardaway.

While some school district officials say the superintendent does not need 
board approval for the drug dog searches because they will not require a 
change in policy and will not cost the school district anything, the board 
will definitely need to approve a policy on random drug testing -- a 
measure targeted for this fall with costs around $30,000 per year, 
according to Holloway.

So far, the school board has discussed random drug testing for athletes, in 
addition to all those who park on school campus. State and federal courts 
have routinely upheld drug testing for athletes, both because athletes 
serve as role models for other students and because physical activity under 
the influence of drugs puts them at a higher health risk.

But testing for those who drive to school is not as common.

Board member Jim Ponsoldt -- a UGA law professor who has taught 
constitutional law -- said he is eager to hear the U.S. Supreme Court's 
decision this summer on a case in which a student is challenging a school 
district's right to randomly drug test students in all extracurricular 
activities. This, according to Ponsoldt, could impact whether school 
districts can continue to extend random drug testing beyond athletes.

So far, the majority of the school board has expressed support for drug dog 
searches and random drug tests. Ponsoldt said he is the only member who is 
against the searches by drug dogs, and he supports drug testing only for 

"It is politically incorrect to oppose it, and nobody will publicly oppose 
it," said Ponsoldt.

He added, "It is hard to draw the line. We do have an obligation to do 
something about drugs in schools."

Thus far, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard two cases dealing with searches 
and drug testing in public schools. In a 1980 case, the court upheld a New 
Jersey school system's right to search a student's purse. A decade later, 
the court upheld an Indiana school system's right to administer drug tests 
to student-athletes.

But Weber told the group Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to 
uphold the testing of athletes was based on that specific school, which had 
been found by the court to have drug problems of "epidemic proportions" 
among the athletes. He said the Clarke County School District would have to 
prove that they have a significant problem before implementing such measures.

Nevertheless, in both cases, the court found that a school system has more 
flexibility than the police, because of the generally large numbers of 
young people and few numbers of adults present. In addition, the court 
found that students' Fourth Amendment rights - protection against 
unreasonable searches and seizures - were not violated because the school 
systems' actions were justified and reasonably executed.

Weber said it is important the school atmosphere does not resemble that of 
a prison, and that students do not think of their teachers as police.

"You cannot start saying that students do not have as many rights when 
they're in school," said Weber.
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