With ACLU Help, Parents and Students Fight Drug Testing Policies at NJ High School

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
August 14, 2000 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Jersey
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 14, 2000

NEWARK, NJ — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a lawsuit challenging Hunterdon Central High School’s expanded drug testing policy, which requires that students participating in athletics, extracurricular activities and those parking on campus submit to random drug tests.

“There is a line between assisting parents by looking out for students, and usurping parental authority to invade students’ legitimate rights to privacy,” said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. “That line obviously has been crossed here.”

In legal papers filed on behalf of three families with students at Hunterdon Central, the ACLU argues that the new policy, scheduled to take effect on September 8, 2000, is highly invasive of the right to privacy, does not serve an important state interest and does not require the type of suspicion usually required to justify drug testing.

Although the United States Supreme Court has authorized drug testing for student athletes, this case is brought under the New Jersey State Constitution which has more clearly defined privacy rights, the ACLU said.

While there is no evidence showing that Hunterdon Central suffers from any unusual or serious drug problems, the school’s Drug Testing Task Force nonetheless recommended the new policy.

Joan Z. Greiner, one of the parents represented in the lawsuit, served on the school’s Drug Testing Task Force as a representative of parents with children who participate in athletic programs at the school. Her daughter, Melissa will be a senior at Hunterdon Central in September and has participated in varsity gymnastics for the past two years.

Melissa also takes prescription medications and objects to having to reveal her personal medical information as a consequence of random drug testing.

Greiner said she repeatedly sought an explanation for why the school required a drug testing program when there is no evidence that the school suffers from unusual or serious drug problems.

“Drug and alcohol abuse are reflections of human frailty which must be addressed,” Greiner said. “The so-called ‘war on drugs,’ as it has been waged for several decades, often seems to be an unsuccessful attempt to stamp out that frailty instead of facing it.”

“If we are going to address substance abuse by waging a war, it is imperative that innocent American citizens and the promises of their advanced citizenship not be deliberate casualties,” she added.

Students who participate in extracurricular activities (some of which require a minimum grade point average) are already less likely to use drugs than other students, the ACLU said. Thus drug testing policies such as Hunterdon’s may discourage involvement in activities that not only round an education but also provide opportunities for college admissions and scholarships.

While basic education for all students is guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions, students do not have a guaranteed right to participate in extracurricular activities, the ACLU’s Jacobs noted. With this in mind, many schools have focused their drug policy efforts on students who participate in athletics and extracurricular activities.

The ACLU also represents Deborah, Michael and Shawn Joye. Shawn will be a junior in September and has participated in a variety of extra-curricular activities including an online magazine, “Electric Soup.”

The third student represented in the lawsuit, senior Anna Zdepski, has participated in Science Online and “PULSE” a student organization formed to promote interaction and understanding between gay and heterosexual students.

Anna and her parents, Mark and Linda Zpedski, do not want her participation in these programs to depend on her submitting to an invasive and unnecessary urine test.

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