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School drug testing policies

Drug Testing

School drug testing, the controversial practice of scouring a student body for drug use, is a flammable topic that appeals to parents, educators, lawmakers and civil rights crusaders alike. Some find the issue to be an albatross around the neck; others, a torch that will light the way to a drug-free America .

Admittedly, there is an overwhelming majority of the country that would love to see drugs eradicated from schools. But how does a nation reach such a lofty goal? Supposedly drug testing is the key.


School drug testing policy allows any middle and/or high school to require students participating in a competitive extracurricular activity to consent to a drug test. What was once restricted solely to student athletes has spread to the chess club, Future Farmers of America and the high school band.

This broad policy, which some say violates the Constitution, was influenced and set by two Supreme Court cases, Vernonia School District vs. Acton and Pottawatomie County vs. Earls .

Vernonia School District vs. Acton set the ball rolling in 1995 when the Supreme Court ruled that drug testing student athletes does not violate privacy rights. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Oregon school district, saying student athletes were in the public eye and thus not under the same privacy laws as the rest of the student body.

The matter came up again in 1998, when Lindsey Earls, a student at Tecumseh High School in Oklahoma , charged that it was unconstitutional to drug test students other than athletes. She claimed in Pottawatomie County vs. Earls that the school district had crossed the line in testing all students who participated in extracurricular activities, not just the student athletes. The Supreme Court, again, ruled in favor of the school district.

When dealing with school drug testing programs, the school is required to present its policy in writing. If the school does not have a drug testing program, and is considering one, it must announce so 90 days before testing commences. Parents and teachers must be notified and give their consent.

Some factors that a school drug testing policy must take into account deal with which students may be tested, what determines the selection process, and how will the test be conducted. The school must also have a plan for dealing with positive tests - will it provide counseling or other services? Privacy is a mandatory issue, as well as keeping student records sealed and confidential.

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