January 4, 2001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 4, 2001

NEWARK--Saying that "students should not have to surrender their right to privacy," a New Jersey judge today blocked a local high school's random drug testing policy in a challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on behalf of three area families.

The policy at Hunterdon Central Regional High School was aimed at students who participate in athletics, extracurricular activities, or park their cars at their high school; it was enacted despite the fact that there is no evidence of a drug problem at the school.

"The Court's opinion recognizes that the State Constitution protects individuals from searches, such as urine tests, unless there is evidence that they have done something wrong or unless the government demonstrates a great need for such a search," said Ravinder S. Bhalla of the Newark firm Krovatin & Associates, who represented the families on behalf of the ACLU.

In an opinion granting the students' motion for an order blocking the policy, Judge Robert E. Guterl of Somerset County Superior Court, said, "This Court agrees with Plaintiffs' argument that the program violates the heightened privacy protection afforded by the New Jersey Constitution and enjoins the further implementation of the program."

"Students should not have to surrender their right to privacy in order to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, and participation in these school programs does not significantly diminish an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy or the intrusiveness of a suspicionless drug testing program," Judge Guterl wrote.

The new policy was scheduled to go into full effect on September 8, 2000, but was halted by the ACLU's lawsuit, filed on August 17, 2000. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are families with students at Hunterdon Central who participate in a variety of extracurricular activities and object to the invasive and unnecessary drug testing.

Although the United States Supreme Court has allowed random drug testing of student athletes if a school demonstrates a special need to test, the New Jersey State Constitution provides greater privacy protections than its federal counterpart.

One New Jersey court has previously enjoined a Ridgefield Park High School's policy that called for the random testing of student athletes because the school had failed to show a need for the testing program. Courts in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Indiana, have also held that their state constitutions prohibit such random testing.

The families in the case are represented by Bhalla of the Newark firm Krovatin & Associates and J.C. Salyer and Lenora Lapidus of the ACLU of New Jersey.

The opinion, captioned Joye et al. v. Hunterdon Central Regional Board of Education et al., is available online at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/guterl/c14031_1018.htm

 

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