State Law Challenges to Student Drug Testing

In 2002, by a margin of 5 to 4, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Board of Education of Pottawatomie v. Earls, permitted public school districts to drug test students participating in competitive, extracurricular activities. In its ruling, however, the Court only interpreted federal law. Schools are also subject to state law, which may provide greater protections for students' privacy rights. These laws vary greatly from state to state, and, in many states, the law may not yet be well defined by the courts.

Read below about challenges to student drug testing in your state:

WASHINGTON - Two sets of parents of high school students filed a lawsuit challenging a school district's policy of suspicionless drug testing for students who participate in extracurricular athletic activities.  Following the filing of the lawsuit, the school district agreed to halt its practice, rendering moot the parents' request for a preliminary injunction.  Although the case was dismissed as moot, the Court of Appealsheld that random drug testing of student-athletes does not invade any clear legal or equitable right of students. See ACLU of Washington State Challenges Suspicionless Urine Testing for Students (York v. Wahkiakum School District. 2/22/02).

The ACLU of Washington filed a challenge to a plan for suspicionless drug testing of students in Kittitas County Superior Court.  The case is brought on behalf of several parents, students and a football coach at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School.  The lawsuit contends that the school's testing policy violates the 'privacy clause' of the Washington Constitution, and seeks a court order barring the district from implementing the program. See ACLU of Washington Represents Parents, Students, and Football Coach In Challenge to Suspicionless Drug Testing Of High School Students.  (Main, et al. v. Cle Elum-Roslyn School District. 9/14/05). 

PENNSYLVANIA - The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that without a showing of a specific need, random drug testing is unconstitutional under state search and seizure law. Students and parents brought the case challenging a school's policy of random, suspicionless drug and alcohol testing of students seeking parking permits or participating in extracurricular activities. (Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District. 11/20/03).

NEW JERSEY - The Supreme Court of New Jersey upheld a high school's policy of random, suspicionless drug testing of students engaged in extracurricular activities and students seeking parking privileges.  The ACLU had challenged the school's policy on behalf of the parents of three area students.  The court ruled that the school demonstrated a special need to test students and that, therefore, the school's testing policy did not violate the search and seizure provision of the state constitution. (Joye v. Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education. 7/9/03). 

TEXAS - The American Civil Liberties Union and the Lockney Independent School District announced a settlement in a mandatory student drug testing challenge brought on behalf of a local parent.  The settlement came on the heels of a District Court ruling that the school district's policy - which required the testing of all students in grades seven through twelve - was unconstitutional. See After Bitter Battle, Texas School Agrees to Drop Mandatory Student Drug Testing Policy. (Tannahill v. Lockney. 4/30/01).

A Court of Appeals reversed a District Court's order that granted a preliminary injunction barring the Marble Falls Independent School District from instituting mandatory drug testing of students participating in any extracurricular activity.  The court ruled, in part, that the policy did not violate students' religious freedom, due process, or privacy rights - claims that a local parent had brought in the case. (Marble Falls School District v. Shell. 4/3/03).

OREGON - A Court of Appeals found certain aspects of a school's policy of randomly drug testing student-athletes constitutional.  The court ruled that random urinalysis did not constitute an unreasonable administrative search, but that requiring students to disclose prescription medication use prior to testing was unreasonable - disclosure of prescription medication use to explain a positive test result was, however, valid.  (Weber v. Oakridge School District 76. 10/23/02).

INDIANA - The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the state's constitution did not prevent random, suspicionless drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities.  Further finding that schools may conduct suspicionless drug testing of student drivers for alcohol and other drugs, but that schools may not test students for nicotine. The case was filed by local students and parents.  (Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation v. Joy. 5/29/02).

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that drug testing of students did not violate the searches and seizures clause of the state constitution or the privileges and immunities clause.  The case was brought by parents and students challenging a school's policy of randomly drug testing students participating in extracurricular activities and students seeking to drive to and from school. (Linke v. Northwestern School Corporation. 3/5/02).


Stay Informed