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Washington State Supreme Court Strikes Down Student Drug Testing

By Mark Walsh — March 13, 2008 1 min read
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The Washington state constitution provides more protection from suspicionless searches than the federal constitution does, the state supreme court held today in striking down a school district’s drug-testing policy for student athletes.

“We decline to adopt a doctrine similar to the federal special needs exception in the context of randomly drug testing student athletes,” said a plurality opinion by four justices on the nine-member court.

The state constitutional provision at issue says, “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”

The plurality notes that the state supreme court “has a long history of striking down exploratory searches not based on at least reasonable suspicion.”

“If we were to allow random drug testing here, what prevents school districts from either later drug testing students participating in any extracurricular activities, as federal courts now allow, or testing the entire student population?” the opinion said.

The plurality opinion in York v. Wahkiakum School District No. 200 is here. There were three concurrences in the case, and they can be accessed here.

Of course, the state court takes note of the U.S. Supreme Court’s two rulings on drug testing of students, Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995), which upheld random drug testing of student athletes under the Fourth Amendment, and Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 v. Earls (2002), which upheld such testing for students involved in a larger definition of extracurricular activities.

Education Week reported on the Vernonia decision here, and on the Earls decision here.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.