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Washington State Supreme Court Strikes Down Student Drug Testing

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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.

4 Comments

Using the title "Washington State Supreme Court Strikes Down Student Drug Testing" is somewhat inaccurate. As you know, student drug testing for extracurricular activities is allowed via the U.S. Supreme Court. This school apparently singled out atheletes, which is admittedly arbitrary.
Random student drug testing of all students, with parent permission, as well as randomly testing all school employees is one of the best deterents to substance abuse and would save lives. Randomly testing students and school employees would be a benefit to everyone.

One of the most common uses of at home drug tests is by parents who want to give their teenager a drug test. Whether their teenager already has a drug problem or they want to prevent one from developing, an at home drug test is a reasonable way to exercise some control over your teen’s activities.

No matter how careful you are as a parent, there is no way to be one hundred percent sure that one of your teen’s friends isn’t being a bad influence. An at home drug test is a good way to determine if you are just being overprotective, or if there is a problem that you actually need to address.

Although your child is still going to protest about you giving them a drug test, it is going to be much more easier to negotiate with them about an at home drug test versus a drug test in a laboratory. By not embarrassing or placing your child in an awkward situation, you will eventually be able to convince them to take an at home drug test. If they pass, you can praise them and tell them how proud you are of them, but if they fail, you can take whatever disciplinary action you feel is necessary to help control this problem.

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