Policing the Student Body: A Critique of Drug Testing in U.S. High Schools

Laura L. Finley
Peter S. Finley

This presentation will overview and critique the use of drug testing with high school students. An overview of relevant Supreme Court decisions will be presented, including New Jersey v. T.L.O. 469 U.S. 325 (1985), which allows for school searches based on reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause, Veronica School District 47J v. Acton 515 U.S. 646 (1995), which established the constitutionality of drug testing high school athletes and Board of Education of Independent School District Number 92 of Pottawatamie County v.Earls (2002), which extended the use of drug testing to all students involved in extra-curricular activities. This will be followed by a critique of the utilitarian arguments in favor of drug testing, micro-level impact, and macro-level impact. Utilitarian arguments include the alleged deterrent effect of drug testing, the argument that it "levels the playing field" and ensures student safety, and that it is a cost-effective method of dealing with teenage drug use. The discussion of micro-level impact will address issues of due process, discriminatory application, and the potential of "widening the net." Macro-level impacts includes a discussion of how such policies might ipact the overall school climate, as well as our broader sense of civil rights.

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Updated 05/20/2006