Court Rulings Reach Beyond Athletics

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Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld drug testing of student athletes in 1995, lower courts have addressed several challenges to drug-testing plans that go beyond athletes.

Just last week, a federal appeals court upheld a drug-testing program in the Cave City, Ark., district that requires students who wish to participate in any extracurricular activity to submit to urinalysis.

The policy was challenged by a student who said he would like to participate in such activities as the radio club and the prom committee but refused to consent to drug testing.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in St. Louis, ruled unanimously that students seeking to participate in any extracurricular activity have a diminished expectation of privacy in schools, just like the student athletes in Vernonia School District v. Acton, decided by the high court in 1995.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, based in Chicago, has also upheld random drug testing of extracurricular participants in the Rush County, Ind., district. The Supreme Court last fall declined to review that ruling.

In a slightly different context, the high court last month let stand a different 7th Circuit ruling that struck down the Anderson, Ind., school district's policy requiring all students suspended for fighting to be tested for drugs.

The Supreme Court's refusal to review those cases does not set any national precedent.

At least one high-level court, meanwhile, has ruled that testing of students in extracurricular activities beyond athletics goes too far. The Colorado Supreme Court last year struck down the drug-testing program of the Trinidad district, which was challenged by a member of the marching band. The court said that band members did not face the same risk of drug-related injuries that a drug-using member of the football team might face.

--Mark Walsh

Vol. 18, Issue 30, Page 16

Published in Print: April 7, 1999, as Court Rulings Reach Beyond Athletics
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