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Drug Testing News

Supreme Court Justice Backs Drug Testing


Fri May 16, 6:14 PM ET
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (news - web sites) told students Friday that school drug testing is a reasonable way to stop children from experimenting with narcotics.

Breyer explained his deciding vote in a case last June that gave school leaders nationwide a free hand to randomly test students who participate in competitive after-school activities or teams.

The court ruled 5-4 that schools' interest in ridding their campuses of drugs outweighs students' right to privacy.

A student at Bell Multicultural Sr. High School in Washington asked the justice what he thought about students who don't want to be forced to take drug tests.

"There are a lot of people who are under pressure from their peers to try the drugs. Sometimes that's hard to resist," said Breyer, a father of three.

He said drug testing for participation in extracurricular activities helps people who don't want to use drugs. A student "can say to his friends `Well I want to go out for sports next year, well I want to join the debate team, well I want to be on the newspaper, so you see I can't.'"

Breyer, who frequently votes with the court liberals, joined conservatives in the drug testing case from Oklahoma. The other justices who supported the challenged policy were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia (news - web sites), Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas (news - web sites).

"That was a reasonable thing for the school system to try," Breyer said. "I've seen enough people really ruined by this stuff that I can easily understand how the schools would want to try something like that."

The ruling did not authorize random tests for any student, but justices could deal with that issue later.

Breyer was fielding questions as part of an educational series televised by C-SPAN. He also talked about threats to civil liberties in the government's war on terrorism. He told students that everyone should be involved in making sure constitutional rights are not eroded.

"You are part of this democratic process," he said.