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June 27, 2002

Supreme Court OK's Random Drug Testing in Public High Schools

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that students in public high schools can be forced to submit to random drug tests as a prerequisite to participating in any after-school activities. The 5-4 decision held that a student’s right to privacy must give way to a school’s interest in detecting and preventing drug use among its students.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dissenting opinion was joined by Justices Stevens, O’Connor and Souter, harshly condemned the expansion of random student drug testing as “unreasonable, capricious and even "perverse,” noting that it targets for testing a student population least likely to be at risk for illicit drugs.

Calling attention to the cognitive liberty implications of the majority’s decision, Justice Ginsburg pointed out that the government, by its random drug testing policy, was teaching by example and the lesson was that the Constitution’s promises of individual freedom were simply lip service. Ginsburg ended her opinion with a chilling quote from an earlier decision by the Court: “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.” 


CCLE drug testing resources:

Supreme Court’s opinion in:
Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls

New York Times Story about the Earls case:

Washington Post Story about the Earls case:

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