Pubdate: Fri, 24 Apr 2009
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2009 Athens Newspapers Inc


The Oconee County school board's recent decision to consider 
expanding a proposed random drug testing policy to cover even more 
students might be more trouble than it's worth.

The board had been scheduled to vote earlier this week on a policy 
that would have randomly tested high school student-athletes, and 
students who drive to school, for use of a range of drugs including 
marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. However, the board decided 
Monday to postpone a decision on the policy proposal for a month.

In a Tuesday story in this newspaper, Oconee County Board of 
Education Chairman David Weeks said the postponement will allow the 
board to both "expand the language" of the proposed drug-testing 
policy and "make sure, from a legal standpoint, we're doing it right."

Not that the Banner-Herald's editorial board suffers under any 
delusions that its musings have any overarching impact on local 
public-policy decisions, but to the extent any Oconee school board 
members might have misread an April 16 editorial that wondered why 
testing shouldn't be expanded beyond student-athletes and 
student-motorists, please understand we weren't advocating such 
expansion, but questioning the advisability of any random drug 
testing of any students.

Here is the relevant portion of the April 16 editorial: "Isn't it 
possible, for instance, that Oconee and North Oconee high school 
marching band students, whose practice sessions involve physical 
activity, pose a danger to themselves and others if they are under 
the influence of drugs? And wouldn't the two schools have an interest 
in, say, deterring their science club members from using school 
laboratory facilities while under the influence of drugs?

"If a stated goal of the policy is to encourage 'substance-free' 
lifestyles, why wouldn't both schools be intent on subjecting every 
student to random drug tests?"

Of course, the reason schools shouldn't "be intent on subjecting 
every student to random drug tests" is that such a policy - if not in 
its words, then possibly in the vagaries of its practical application 
- - could place the school system in the position of violating 
students' Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches 
and seizures.

It's true the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that random testing of 
students who participate in athletics and other extracurricular 
activities is permissible. It is, however, possible that the Oconee 
school board's desire to expand the currently proposed policy, even 
in pursuit of the worthwhile goals of ensuring student safety and 
encouraging substance-free lifestyles, might extend its testing 
protocols into legally questionable areas.

Thus, it might be wise for the Oconee school board, in conjunction 
with school system administrators, to look at how it might advance 
its interests in student safety and substance-free lifestyles in the 
least intrusive manner possible, rather than moving the system toward 
a wide-ranging policy that might place it in some legal jeopardy.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart