• Can schools force students to submit to drug testing?

    Date: 08.27.07 | by Judge Tom.

    The issue of drug testing in schools concerns everyone on campus. While in session, your school is considered to be your temporary guardian. In that capacity, the school exercises a degree of supervision and control over you. This may include a blood or urine test to check for alcohol or drug use. 

    In addition to offering the standard courses, your school may sponsor a variety of clubs, organizations, and sports. There is no law that automatically entitles you to participate in these activities. A student right is not the same as a student privilege. The school may legally set standards for participation in the activity, including a minimum grade point average, a clean record regarding school infractions, or an initial (and/or random) drug test.

    Supreme Court decision on drug testing in schools

    Like many other schools, the Vernonia School District in Oregon adopted a Student Athlete Drug Policy, which authorized random urinalysis drug testing of students who participated in sports. The policy was adopted in the face of increased discipline problems and drug-related injuries to student athletes. The purpose of the policy was to prevent the use of drugs, to protect the students′ health and safety, and to provide assistance for avoiding or quitting drugs or alcohol.

    • 25% of students say it′s easy to obtain beer, wine, marijuana, or other drugs at school.
    • Incidents of physical attack, robbery, and bullying at school increase significantly with the pressure of drug dealers at school.

    Source: Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, National Center for Juvenile Justice (1995), with 1996 Update on Violence

    In 1991, the District′s policy was challenged by James Acton*, a 12-year-old seventh grader who signed up for football but refused to sign the drug testing consent forms.  James testified in court that he didn’t want to submit to drug testing  “Because I feel that they have no reason to think I was taking drugs.”

    After a four-year legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support of the school’s drug testing policy. In fact, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that consideration should be given to extending the random testing to all students, not just athletes. Some schools are using a low-tech version of the police breathalyzer to screen students attending school dances and graduation night parties.

    The expectation of privacy that adults enjoy is somewhat lessened for minors in the school setting. There are certain intrusions into your privacy that go along with attending school. These include physical examinations, hearing tests, eye tests, and dental screenings.

    Student athletes should expect even less privacy due to the nature of school sports—public locker rooms, suiting up together, etc. By choosing to go out for the team, students voluntarily subject themselves to greater regulation than is usually imposed on students.

    In applying the reasonableness test, and by balancing the school′s interest in a peaceful campus against the limited surrender of a student′s privacy, the court determined that random drug testing for athletes is constitutional: “Deterring drug use by our Nation′s schoolchildren is . . . important.” The results of the tests aren′t made public, nor are they sent to the police for criminal prosecution. Deterrence and rehabilitation are the policy′s goals.

    What about a school drug testing athletes for use of steroids?  A few testing programs in U.S. high schools between 2005 and 2008 show that steroid use by student athletes is not widespread.

    *Vernonia School District v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995).

    You can read more about James and his case in “Teens Take It To Court – Young People Who Challenged the Law and Changed Your Life” by Free Spirit Publishing (2006).

    Update: A report issued in August, 2011, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania shows that random student drug testing has no deterrent effect for boys and limited effect on girls. Approximately 20% of public high schools have such policies in place. The 14 to 19-year-old male students surveyed reported no less use of alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes in schools with drug testing than those in schools without drug testing. Effectiveness for girls was seen only in schools with “good social climates.” 

    Resources to check out: 

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides brain games, real stories and facts on drugs.

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Dept. of  Health provides a locator service for treatment at:                1-800-662-HELP

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    9 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • tim turner
      Wed, 05 Nov 2008 at 04:32

      If a student is in Juvenile Court for an offense not related to chemical use, shoplifting for example, can a Judge require clean UA’s as part of a sentence during the time period they are alotted to do community service?

      Judge Tom’s response:
      A great question, Tim. In most jurisdictions around the country, if the court places you on probation or you’re under the court’s direction for a period of time [for example, in a juvenile diversion program], they can order you to do a number of things including random urine tests for drugs. The bottom line here is what is in your best interests. If drug use or experimentation is in your history and the court is aware of that, then expect to test. All the best.

    • Alex
      Thu, 10 Dec 2009 at 12:07

      If I fail a bunch of drug tests for uncourt related organiztions is there anything they or my parents can do?
      Dear Alex: It depends on your relationship with the court. If you’re already on probation or under the court’s supervision and the court becomes aware of positive drug tests, there may be consequences. The same as far as your parents – once they find out, they have the authority, in most situations, to discipline you. Rather than worrying about this, try staying clean so the rest of your life isn’t a series of troubles that you have control over. Good luck.
      [This is information only - not legal advice].

    • Benjamin
      Sat, 29 May 2010 at 05:22

      If a urinalysis is positive for drugs, can the school alert the police to the student? And if so, could the test be used as evidence in order to try to bust the student?
      Dear Benjamin: The school could report the positive test to the police but they rarely do. Most positives are handled at the school level – between the school, student and the parents.
      [This is information only - not legal advice].

    • Crystal
      Tue, 28 Sep 2010 at 07:24

      My ex went to health and welfare and said I’m an unfit mom and I have a meth problem. I had two cops come into my home and laugh because my kids are just fine. Then not 30min later 2 narcotic detectives are at my door. What are my rights as to taking drug tests and letting every cop in town into my home?
      Dear Crystal: Askthejudge.info is a teen law site providing information to teens about their rights and the laws that affect them. Therefore, we suggest you contact a local criminal attorney in your area who can answer your questions. In most states, if a person refuses consent to a drug test, the police will get a warrant to take a sample of the person’s blood if they have probable cause to believe the person is engaged in criminal activity. The same standard usually applies to the home. You can refuse to let the police in your home if they don’t have a warrant, but if they have probable cause, then they will attempt to get a search warrant signed by a judge and search your home. Again, a local attorney can provide you more information based on the laws in your state. Good luck.
      [This is information only - not legal advice.]

    • Ben
      Wed, 17 Aug 2011 at 04:39

      So, can public schools make non-athletes submit to random drug test with the student’s or their parents consent?
      Dear Ben: The Supreme Court has approved public school policies requiring random drug testing for athletes and students involved in other extra-curricular activites (clubs, band, cheer, etc). The Court has not extended the policy to all students regardless of their participation in other activities or not. Public schools are not required to have drug testing policies, however. It’s a decision of individual school districts. If a school has a policy for testing athletes and students in extracurricular activities and a parent wants their son or daughter tested, it could be arranged with the parent’s consent. This would be unusual and we’re not aware of such an arrangement anywhere in the U.S. The parent would probably have to pay for the tests. If you know about a public school with this type of program, please let us know. Thanks for asking.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Jill smith
      Sat, 31 Mar 2012 at 06:06

      So a student tested postive on monday from a drug test done at school with a range of 45, the lab ask the parent could the student be on any medicine. The student was tested by their parent at a hosiptal on thursday the test comes back negative. The student can play sports but their national honor society and senate was taken away. Where is the due process punishing a student twice for a test from a lab with margin of error but a test from a hosip
      Dear Jill: The procedures and consequences that the school can impose regarding drug tests are spelled out in the Student Handbook or are available through the School District Office. Most likely, there is a process for parents who disagree with test results or consequences imposed following a positive test result. Otherwise, you can speak with a lawyer familiar with school or education law. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • Angalina
      Wed, 24 Oct 2012 at 06:41

      Can a college require an athlete to take a certain drug test or can the athlete request an alternative test?
      Dear Angalina: Under a Supreme Court opinion many years ago, random drug tests for student athletes and anyone participating in extra-curricular activities is permissible. It’s up to the school whether to have such a policy or not. An alternative test can be discussed with the school, but the school doesn’t have to agree to such. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

    • 400ans400blogues.com
      Thu, 03 Jan 2013 at 01:48

      Ur posting, “Drug Testing in Schools” ended up being definitely worth writing a comment on!

      Only wanted to point out you really did a fantastic work.
      Thanks a lot -Avis
      Thanks, Avis, for your comment. -Judge Tom.

    • Karen N King
      Sun, 01 Sep 2013 at 01:54

      If the US Supreme Court ruled that schools have the right to perform drug tests on athletes, how is it that in WA State it was ruled that it was a violation of the state constitution and not allowed. I thought federal law trumped state law.
      Dear Karen: Federal law does not always trump state laws. The Tenth Amendment covers this issue. The Supreme Court ruled in Acton v. Vernonia School District (1995) that public schools may implement a drug testing policy for student athletes. It did not require random tests but left the decision to have such policies in schools up to the schools and state legislatures. Likewise, when it comes to capital punishment, the Court ruled many years ago that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, but left the decision to impose such up to the individual states. As you know 32 states have the death penalty for adults while 18 and the District of Columbia do not.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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