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Montrel Tennessee
Supreme Court Paper
12/3/2012

“Drug Testing in Public Schools”

I chose to analyze  the question “If public schools should drug test in order for students to be able to participate in extracurricular activities?” For this analyzation, I will refer to the Supreme Court cases of Board of Education V. Earls and Vernonia School District 47J V. Acton. Key legal issues that will be addressed in this essay are the power of public officials, privacy of the students,constitutionality of the rulings, along with other supporting facts of the case.

One of the most monumental cases,that dealt with drug testing the public school youth was Vernonia School District 47J V. Acton, in 1995. Understanding that the Vernonia case is 17 years in the past, I will only refer to this in my analysis of the facts when relevant to the Board of Education V. Earls case. Vernonia School District 47J V. Acton is the precedent case for Board of Education V. Earls and for my analysis. The Vernonia School district was seeing escalated drug use among its student population. The school district was particularly concerned with the fact that student athletes were leaders of the drug culture. Parents gave their unanimous approval to a proposed urinalysis drug testing policy for student athletes, the district's school board implemented the policy, under which all students wishing to participate in interscholastic athletics had to sign a form consenting to the testing and had to obtain their parents' written consent to the testing, athletes were tested at the beginning of the season for their sport, and random testing of 10 percent of the athletes was done weekly during the season. A seventh grade student was denied participation in the district's football program because the student and his parents refused to sign the testing consent forms (1). A parents challenged the schools’ testing program by filing a suit saying that it violated their childs 4th Amendment right. The case was heard and upheld by a district court and in response the family appealed the case  to the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the court overturned the districts court decision. The case was sent to the supreme court in which they ruled it was not a violation of the student’s 4th amendment rights.In two post Vernonia decisions,  Todd V. Rush County schools and Joy V. Penn- Harris Madison School Corporation, the seventh Circuit upheld extracurricular suspicionless drug test policies. In the Joy case, the court had second thoughts about its earlier decision in Todd because Todd had not utilized the three-part methodology of Vernonia that considered the nature of the students’ privacy interest, the character of intrusion. The Eighth Circuit also upheld random testing  in the case of Miller V. Wilkes, but the ruling was vacated for mootness.  

Board of Education V. Earls  is a case where a public school district instituted policy that required all students--such as band members, choir members, academic team members, and athletic team members--who participated in any of the district's competitive extracurricular activities to submit to urinalysis drug testing extracurricular activities (2). The District Court granted summary judgment for the school district. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, reversing, held that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the appeals court.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. In 1985, the New Jersey V. T.L.O ruling extended the fourth amendment from state officers to public school officials.  According to the ruling of Skinner V. Railway Labor Executive Assn, a state compelled collection and testing of urine that is required by policy, constitutes as a “search” (3). According to fourth...
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