Pubdate: Fri, 22 Mar 2002
Source: News Leader, The (VA)
Copyright: 2002 News Leader
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Youth)

Our View


There's a clash shaping up within the Supreme Court and between the court 
and the American Civil Liberties Union over whether to allow schools to 
require students involved in any extracurricular activity to undergo drug 
testing. At present, the nation's highest court upholds the right of 
schools to require drug testing only for student athletes.

The issue wound up in the Supreme Court thanks to a decision by the 
Pottawatomie County school system in Oklahoma, which extended its drug 
testing program to all students involved in interscholastic extracurricular 
activities. Some students protested the decision as an invasion of their 
privacy. An appeals court sided with the students, citing the differences 
between student athletics and other extracurricular activities, 
particularly the reasons why drug testing for athletics passed in the first 
place: Lowered expectations of privacy among groups that regularly undress 
and shower together, along with concerns for safety.

The decision at the Supreme Court level appears less clear-cut, however. At 
present, it appears a majority of the justices are in favor of extending 
drug testing to any group of students involved in extracurricular 
activities, with the exception of Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter, who 
feel such a policy would involve an infringement of Fourth Amendment 
protections against unreasonable searches. O'Connor expressed doubts as to 
why students involved in activities such as choir should be subjected to 
drug testing, calling such a policy "odd" and implying such students were 
less likely to use drugs. Souter expressed misgivings about whether such a 
decision might lead to drug testing of all students, regardless of whether 
they were involved in extracurricular activities or not. The remaining 
members of the Supreme Court, particularly Justice Antonin Scalia, appear 
ready to give the green light to the testing as another way to keep drug 
use in schools down.

For us, the litmus test of whether drug testing of students should be 
extended to all extracurricular activities is the voluntary nature of such 
activities. We are opposed to requiring blanket drug testing of all 
students because that constitutes a blatant violation of the Fourth 
Amendment. Unless there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion, entire 
student bodies shouldn't be subject to random or targeted urinalysis.

However, if a student wishes to become involved in some extracurricular 
activity, whether it's football or band, they should be prepared to answer 
to a higher set of standards. Just as those of us in the real world have to 
submit to drug testing for some employers, students involved in 
extracurricular activities should expect an extra hurdle. Will it help keep 
drug use in schools down appreciably? Probably not, but it won't hurt, either.
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