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Research legal issues

A 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the authority of public schools to test students for drug use to include athletes and students participating in competitive extra-curricular activities. However, as the ruling was not a blanket endorsement of drug testing for all students, schools should engage legal counsel familiar with Federal, State, and local law regarding drug testing before implementing a testing program. Although private schools are not constrained by similar legal limitations, it is important for both public and private schools to obtain a full legal review of their drug-testing policy and program before testing begins.

Supreme Court Decisions

In Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton (1995), the Supreme Court of the United States determined that student drug testing of athletes was constitutional. In Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County, et al, Petitioners v. Lindsay Earls et al. (2002), the Court broadened the authority of public schools to include testing of participants in other extracurricular activities. These decisions gave public schools a powerful tool to use to prevent and identify substance abuse among youth.

Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 1995 (PDF)

Motivated by the discovery that some athletes were leaders in the student drug culture and concern that drug use increases the risk of sports-related injury, the petitioner school district adopted the Student Athlete Drug Policy, which authorized random urinalysis drug testing of students who participate in its athletic programs.

Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County, et al, Petitioners v. Lindsay Earls et al., 2002 (PDF)

State and Local Issues

Schools should engage legal counsel familiar with Federal, State, and local law regarding drug testing before implementing a testing program. Here are some samples of student drug testing legislation, policies, and publications from different States.