High Court Mulls Dramatic Expansion of Student Drug Testing

Washington, DC: A majority of Supreme Court justices appear sympathetic to an Oklahoma school district’s policy mandating drug testing for all students wishing to participate in extracurricular activities. Lawyers for the school district and the Bush administration are appealing a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the policy as unconstitutional. Oral arguments in the case were heard Tuesday.

“If the justices rule this excessively broad policy to be okay, what’s to prevent the government from drug testing all students as a condition of attending school?” asked Donna Shea, Legal Director of the NORML Foundation, which filed a friend of the court brief in the case.

In a related 1995 case (Veronia School District 47J v. Acton), the Court ruled that warrantless student drug testing was constitutionally permissible, but only for student athletes.

“The primary goal of schools should be educating students, not policing them,” Shea said. “Voluntary participation in extracurricular activities alone should not reduce a student’s expectation of privacy nor forfeit his or her Fourth Amendment guarantee to be free from unreasonable searches.”

The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals previously found the Oklahoma program to be unreasonable because the district failed to show there was a specific student drug problem for which drug testing was a solution. Since authorities in Tecumseh, OK adopted the policy in 1998, less than five students have tested positive for drugs.

The Court is expected to render its decision by June.

For more information, please contact either Donna Shea or Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. NORML’s friend of the court brief is available on the NORML website.