Civil Liberties

Testing Frenzy

Drug war idiocy


The Tecumseh School District of Oklahoma doesn't have a documented drug problem. Nevertheless, it has one of the strictest school drug-testing policies in the United States—so strict, in fact, that the Supreme Court will decide this spring whether it violates the Constitution.

The district requires that high school students undergo drug tests if they want to participate in any extracurricular activities, including such well-known dens of drug-related vice as the choir and the quiz team. Once students test clean, they also have to agree to random drug testing throughout the year.

Heading up the dissent are 16-year-old Lacey Earls and American Civil Liberties Union attorney Graham Boyd, who will argue the case in Washington. Says Boyd, "Drug testing represents the wholesale elimination of Fourth Amendment rights for all students that are subjected to it," adding that about 90 percent of students participate in after-school activities.

The Supreme Court has visited the topic of student drug testing before. In 1995, the justices ruled that an Oregon school, whose jocks were reportedly using drugs and running amok, could test student athletes. But Boyd is confident the court won't extend that ruling to students in other after-school activities. Athletes, he will argue, "uniquely waive their privacy expectations by agreeing to other invasions of privacy," such as shared dressing rooms and physical exams.

While the Supreme Court teases out the legal issues, the Tecumseh school board could use a good, strong hit of common sense: Kicking a kid out of choir—or discouraging him from ever signing up—only gives him more time to experiment in illegal extracurricular activities.