Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jul 2007
Source: Tennessean, The (Nashville, TN)
Copyright: 2007 The Tennessean
Author: Jaime Sarrio, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Opinion May Affect Midstate Schools

A new state attorney general's opinion could jeopardize random
drug-testing programs at several Midstate high schools, including
those in Wilson County.

The opinion, issued this week, states that Tennessee school districts
cannot randomly test students for drugs just because they participate
in extracurricular activities. Despite two decisions by the U.S.
Supreme Court that random drug testing does not violate a student's
rights, state law provides more protection than the U.S. Constitution
against search and seizure.

A survey by The Tennessean last fall found that of the 137 high
schools in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, 40
have drug-testing policies. More districts are exploring the idea of
random drug tests for athletes and club participants.

Grant Now in Question

"I'm disappointed," said Ralph Ringstaff, a school board member in
Williamson County, where school officials applied for a $560,000
federal grant to launch a random drug-testing program this fall.
"Anything to keep young kids from using drugs I'm in support of."

No one available Thursday knew the grant's status.

Two Supreme Court decisions shaped student drug-testing laws --
Vernonia School District vs. Acton in 1995 and Pottawatomie County vs.
Earls in 2002. Both ruled that randomly testing students who sign up
for extracurricular activities, from the football team to the chess
club, does not violate their privacy.

Tennessee's law includes additional language that prohibits schools
from testing a student unless the principal has good reason to suspect
him of drug use.

The law also sets standards to define good reason.

"If you have a Supreme Court decision, it's based on an interpretation
of the U.S. Constitution," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director for
the American Civil Liberties Union Tennessee. 
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