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Drug Testing News
High Court Considers
School Drug Tests
Tue Mar 19, 5:27 PM ET
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several US Supreme Court justices
questioned on Tuesday whether a program to counter drug abuse
among students participating in extracurricular activities
could be applied to all public high school students.
The justices also questioned why the school district in the
case adopted the drug tests for students in non-athletic
extracurricular activities when it earlier told the federal
government it did not have a major drug abuse problem.
A Bush administration lawyer argued that a school could test
all of its students without violating constitutional privacy
rights and said schools have more leeway than the federal
government in adopting drug testing programs.
The Oklahoma program required students participating in
after-school activities to submit to random urinalysis without
any suspicion that they had been using illegal drugs.
The drug tests covered such activities as cheerleading, choir,
band and the academic team. A student who refuses to take the
test cannot take part in competition.
Linda Meoli, an attorney representing the Tecumseh School
District in Pottawatomie County, argued that drug tests for
students in extracurricular activities passed constitutional
But Justice David Souter (news - web sites) said the school
initially told the federal government it had no problem with
drug use and then found only three instances of drug use in
several years of tests. "You're going to lose" either way, he
Souter and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites)
questioned whether Meoli's argument of testing as a deterrent
would allow the program to be expanded to every child in every
school in the United States.
NAMES OF DRUG USERS ON BULLETIN BOARDS?
Souter asked whether, as a sanction, a school could post the
name and photograph on a bulletin board of those who fail a
drug test. Meoli replied it would be "very cruel" and said the
school did not want to brand students as drug users.
Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement of the US Justice
Department (news - web sites) supported the school district.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (news - web sites) cited evidence
that students participating in extracurricular activities were
the least likely to use drugs. She said it seemed "so odd" to
penalize those students.
Graham Boyd, a lawyer represent two students who challenged
the drug tests, said the school already has cameras in the
hallways, security guards and locker searches, and has also
brought in drug-sniffing dogs.
He said there was no need for the drug tests, and that the
students who abused drugs were not in the choir or band.
Justice Stephen Breyer (news - web sites) said it was hard for
him to see how the Oklahoma case would come out differently
from a 1995 ruling in which the court allowed public high
schools and middle schools to force student athletes to submit
to drug tests.
Justice Anthony Kennedy (news - web sites) asked whether a
district would be required to set up a school for those who
use drugs and a school that required mandatory testing for
everyone. He said no parent would send their child to the
first school, except perhaps the parents of Boyd's clients.
Boyd replied that the students who challenged the policy had
never been found to use drugs.
Lindsay Earls, one of those who challenged the policy, was in
the choir, marching band and academic team. Earls, who now is
a student at Dartmouth College, attended the arguments.
The Supreme Court will decide the case by the end of June.