Random Drug Testing

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Federal Court Decisions
Mandatory Suspicionless Testing of Student Athletes Ruled Constitutional The legal foundation for suspicionless student drug testing rests upon Vernonia v. Acton (1995). In that landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a school policy requiring student athletes to pass random urinalysis tests as a ground for participation in interscholastic sports. The Court rejected a Fourth Amendment claim asserting that such tests are an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Closely watched nationwide, the decision effectively opened the door for school districts to institute similar policies of their own.

In the late 1980s, school authorities in the small logging community of Vernonia, Oregon, noticed a sharp increase in illegal drug usage and a doubling in student disciplinary problems. They observed that student athletes were leaders of the drug culture. Officials responded by offering anti-drug classes and presentations, along with conducting drug sweeps with dogs. After these education and interdiction efforts failed, a large segment of the student body was deemed to be in "a state of rebellion," according to findings of the Oregon District Court.

With the support of some parents, school officials next implemented a drug-testing policy for student athletes in fall 1989. It had three goals: prevent athlete drug use, protect student health and safety, and provide drug assistance programs. It imposed strict eligibility requirements: parents of student athletes had to submit a consent form for drug testing of their children, and the student athletes had to submit to tests. Once weekly the school randomly tested 10 percent of all student athletes by taking urine samples that were analyzed for illegal drug usage procedure known as urinalysis.

A legal challenge to the policy arose when a student and his parents refused to consent to drug testing and he was denied the chance to play football. Their lawsuit charged that...
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