Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls: Extracurricular-Required Urinal Drug Test (05/27/2002)

Board of Ed. of Independence District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls

Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to participate in a drug testing, consistent with the Fourth Amendment?

Argued: 03/19/2002

Decision Date: 05/27/2002

Decision Record: 5-4; yes

Justices in Favor: William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer

Justices Dissenting: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Effect of the Decision

This case ruled that the requirement for students wanting to participate in this particular school is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In Favor

In the favoring side of this case, on the side of the Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty., attorney Linda M. Meoli argued, “This case involves the constitutionality of the Tecumseh School Board’s decision to implement a suspicionless drug testing pro- policy for students in competitive activities as a reasonable response to student drug use.

Tecumseh’s policy represents a natural, logical, and rational application of this Court’s decision in Vernonia V Acton.

Vernonia’s policy applied to students who chose to participate in interscholastic athletics.

Tecumseh’s policy applies as well to athletics, but also to all the other competitive activities that are offered by the district.

Respondents do not challenge the policy as applied to the athletics, conceding that this Court approved that practice in Vernonia.”


In the opposition, on the side of Earls, attorney Graham A. Boyd argued, “Opposing counsel said we have to draw the line somewhere, and the way the way to draw the line in this case is to keep in mind the core principle that individualized reasonable suspicion is the standard for school searches set forth in TLO.”


On the side of the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion for the court. He wrote, “Finally, we find that testing students who participate in extracurricular activities is a reasonably effective means of addressing the School District’s legitimate concerns in preventing, deterring, and detecting drug use. While in Vernonia there might have been a closer fit between the testing of athletes and the trial court’s finding that the drug problem was “fueled by the ‘role model’ effect of athletes’ drug use,” such a finding was not essential to the holding. 515 U.S., at 663; cf. id., at 684—685 (O’Connor, J., dissenting) (questioning the extent of the drug problem, especially as applied to athletes). Vernonia did not require the school to test the group of students most likely to use drugs, but rather considered the constitutionality of the program in the context of the public school’s custodial responsibilities. Evaluating the Policy in this context, we conclude that the drug testing of Tecumseh students who participate in extracurricular activities effectively serves the School District’s interest in protecting the safety and health of its students.

    Within the limits of the Fourth Amendment, local school boards must assess the desirability of drug testing schoolchildren. In upholding the constitutionality of the Policy, we express no opinion as to its wisdom. Rather, we hold only that Tecumseh’s Policy is a reasonable means of furthering the School District’s important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”

In opposition, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “I dissented in Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646 (1995), and continue to believe that case was wrongly decided. Because Vernonia is now this Court’s precedent, and because I agree that petitioners’ program fails even under the balancing approach adopted in that case, I join Justice Ginsburg’s dissent.”
Also disagreeing with the majority, Justice Ruther Bader Ginsburg wrote, “It is a sad irony that the petitioning School District seeks to justify its edict here by trumpeting “the schools’ custodial and tutelary responsibility for children.” Vernonia, 515 U.S., at 656. In regulating an athletic program or endeavoring to combat an exploding drug epidemic, a school’s custodial obligations may permit searches that would otherwise unacceptably abridge students’ rights. When custodial duties are not ascendant, however, schools’ tutelary obligations to their students require them to “teach by example” by avoiding symbolic measures that diminish constitutional protections. “That [schools] are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 637 (1943).”

My Opinion:

In this case, I agree with the majority. Most schools already do spontaneous drug checks commonly without needing reasonable suspicion. This shouldn’t be that much different. I personally do not believe an administrator needs any sort of “reasonable suspicion” to perform a drug test on a group of kids. There always reason to believe that a person may or may not be doing drugs, especially in a school-environment where one is surrounded around tons of influencers. Not only that, I wouldn’t consider a urinal drug test much of an “invasion of privacy.” There’s not much to hide in one’s urine; and if it’s for the better of the students and school, then so be it.

*Justice Leaning L=Left, LC=Left of Center, C=Center, RC=Right of Center, R=Right

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