The Supreme Court’s recent ruling for mandatory drug testing of public high school students in extracurricular activities is the latest decision in a series of rulings that attacks the Fourth Amendment rights of minors. The ruling is so backwards and counterproductive that one dissenting Supreme Court judge went as far as to call it “perverse,” and that is exactly what it is.
There is no logic that explains how drug testing students who want to participate in clubs after school, the group least likely to experiment with illegal substances, will help keep more kids off of drugs. Teenagers who want to do drugs are going to do drugs. Do these justices really think the threat of not being able to participate in this weekend’s choir performance at the retirement home is enough to discourage some sixteen-year-old to pass on the joint? If anything, drug testing will only serve to prevent kids from participating in extracurricular activities.
Drug testing is an ominous procedure that makes even the most innocent person feel guilty. In the case heard before the Supreme Court, a girl was forced to urinate in a cup as an instructor stood outside the door and listened for the tinkle of urine in the dish as part of the procedure. It does not get more intrusive than this. The procedure alone is enough to scare many kids into opting out of after-school activities.
Most experts agree that the Court has taken the wrong approach to the situation.
“Every available study demonstrates that the single best way to prevent drug use among students is to engage them in extracurricular activities,” said Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Policy Litigation Project, who argued the case before the justices in March.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged the Supreme Court’s backward ruling – even she knows it is not the students in the chess club or choir who are getting high.
“This particular testing program upheld today is not reasonable, it is capricious, even perverse: It targets a student population least likely to be at risk for illicit drugs and their damaging effects,” Ginsburg wrote.
In the 5-4 vote, the Court said that school officials’ responsibility for the health and safety of their students can outweigh those students’ concerns about privacy. The Court’s conservative majority feels this does not violate the constitutional prohibition on “unreasonable” searches.
But if this is not “unreasonable” then what is? Public school officials can already search lockers and persons with no warrant and no more than a reasonable suspicion – they do not even need probable cause like police do. Add to this the ability of school officials to force drug tests on anyone from athletes to service club members without any prior sign of drug use. This has created a system in public schools that is seemingly above the Fourth Amendment.
Where in the Constitution does it say that all rights are guaranteed unless the citizen is still in high school? The consistent chipping away of the rights of minors needs to be stopped and lawmakers need to curb the ability of the courts to dominate the discussion on how to govern students by passing new protective laws.
The worst thing to come out of all of this is legislation signed by President George W. Bush last year allotting $472 million of federal funding to pay for drug tests in public schools. This comes amid an economic downturn that has left many schools unable to pay for new textbooks and forced to use inadequate technology with little federal relief in sight.
So a few kids will not have new books, but look at the bright side – at least there will be millions of dollars available to test every member of Future Business Leaders of America to make sure their late night strategy meetings weren’t mixed with some reefer sessions.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is the Hatchet opinions editor