- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that public middle and high
schools can require drug tests for students in extracurricular activities
such as sports, choir or band without violating their privacy rights.
- The high court by a 5-4 vote upheld a program in Oklahoma
that required students who want to take part in after-school activities
to submit to random urinalysis.
- The tests, required without any suspicion of drug use,
covered students in grades 7 to 12 who sign up for such activities as cheerleading,
choir, band, the academic team and the Future Farmers of America club.
- On the last day of their term, the justices overturned
a U.S. appeals court ruling that struck down the policy in the Tecumseh
School District in Pottawatomie County for violating constitutional privacy
protections against unreasonable searches.
- "Because this policy reasonably serves the school
district's important interest in detecting and preventing drug use among
its students, we hold that it is constitutional," Justice Clarence
Thomas said for the majority.
- A student who refuses to take the test or who tests positive
more than twice cannot take part in competition for the rest of the school
year. Students are tested at the start of the school year and then randomly
throughout the year, with names drawn every month.
- RULING COULD BOOST SCHOOL DRUG TESTS
- The ruling could boost school drug testing. Over the
past three years, about 5 percent of schools nationwide have required drug
tests for student athletes while about 2 percent have tested students in
other extracurricular activities.
- The Supreme Court adopted the position urged by the Bush
administration in upholding the drug tests. At arguments, a Bush administration
lawyer said a school could even test all of its students without violating
their privacy rights.
- The Supreme Court last addressed the issue in 1995, when
it ruled that public high schools and middle schools may force student
athletes to submit to drug tests. The Oklahoma case covered extracurricular
activities other than athletics.
- In Tecumseh, a rural town about 40 miles (64 km) from
Oklahoma City, two students challenged the policy after its adoption in
1998, claiming the school failed to show it had a problem with illegal
- The school board defended the program and its authority
to adopt tests to deter and combat drug use.
- Of the more than 500 students tested while the program
was in effect during part of two school years, only three students, all
athletes, tested positive. Two of the athletes also participated in other
- Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David
Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
- Ginsburg said the program was unreasonable, capricious
and even "perverse" because it targets for testing a student
population least likely to be at risk for illicit drugs and their damaging