School Drug Testing From the Perspective of Students

Drug testing in schools is a relatively recent constitutional issue, coming before courts more often in the 1980s during the government’s “War on Drugs” and attempts to keep controlled substances out of the hands of children. At its core, drug testing is a form of search, which triggers a person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizure by public officials. Have you been asked to submit to drug testing at school? While you might be concerned that your constitutional rights have been trampled on, some past court cases have actually upheld a school’s right to drug test its students in certain situations. An Illinois criminal defense attorney can provide a more detailed explanation of how these legal issues play out in the real world and how they apply to you.

Key U.S. Supreme Court Decisions on School Drug Testing

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that students being searched or drug tested at school does raise Fourth Amendment issues. Ultimately, however, they found that students have a lower expectation of privacy at school, and for that reason, certain searches, including drug testing, is not a violation of students’ rights.

So, whether there is suspicion of drug abuse or not, can school administrators require students to submit to drug testing? Likely so. SCOTUS took up the issue of Fourth Amendment protections as they relate to school drug testing in the 2002 case of Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls. In their 5-4 decision, the justices upheld the school district’s policy requiring students to provide their urine for drug testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities. The Court’s opinion stated that the students had a lowered expectation of privacy at school, which was outweighed by the government’s interest in maintaining drug-free schools.

The Supreme Court further asserted that since the results of the drug testing remained confidential (though positive results were reported to parents), and were not reported to the police, the negative implications of the policy on the students involved were negligible. The worst-case scenario was a student being barred from extracurricular activities for refusing to receive drug counseling after a positive test. The court did not deem that risk to be significant enough to outweigh the importance of maintaining a drug-free school environment.

Contact an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney on School Drug Testing

Though these prior case results may be informative, there are many more complicated issues involved with school drug testing today. For more information and assistance with your particular situation, please contact Glasgow & Olsson at 847-577-8700 or visit us online to set up a consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers serve clients throughout Cook, Lake, DuPage, McHenry, and Kane Counties, and we can explain more about the constitutionality of school drug testing policies.

(image courtesy of Tom Rogerson)

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