Drug testing has always been a touchy subject. In 2010, there was discussion in the North Platte School District to do random drug testing. In 2010-11, they did it and hit a couple positives for drugs along the way. In 2011-12 so far, they’ve had zero – and that’s after testing almost 70 percent of what they did in the last school year. Like the County’s new initiative last year about being able to test for alcohol without permission at car stops, there have been a couple questions raised about a student’s right to privacy in the North Platte School District since these randomized drug tests began. Does the school district have the right to randomly test students for drug usage? According to at least two Supreme Court decisions in the last 16 years, apparently they do.
In 2002, in Board of Education v. Earls, the Supreme Court held it was constitutional for an Oklahoma school policy to randomly drug test students who participate in competitive, non-athletic extracurricular activities. The Supreme Court ruling (5-4) stated it was “a reasonably effective means of addressing the school district’s legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring and detecting drug use.” One dissenting justice identified the current program — not necessarily the concept of drug testing — as the reason for the dissenting vote.
In 1995, there was Vernonia School District 47 v. Acton, which basically held it was reasonable to randomly test 10 percent of the student athlete body for drug use. Vernonia was seeing a rise of drug use which caused a lot of injuries, among athletes especially. Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided that the school district was acting in loco parentis to their students, which means they have legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. So to clear it up, it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are not taking drugs and the parent transfers some of their parenting authority to the school district to ensure the welfare of the child in question, including their safety.
In laymen’s terms, for eight or so hours a school day, your school district is your enforcing presence. A district is given permission to punish students for various things, but until they turn 18, they are still minors by law and someone has legal responsibility for them. A parent has a reasonable expectation a school district will protect their children while they are under the district’s authority and any student who would test positive on a school district campus for being under the influence of a drug that is either illegal or not prescribed to them is under the influence of an unmonitored, potentially hazardous substance.
To read more, pick up the Feb. 8 edition of The Platte County Citizen.