One Central Pennsylvania mother who complied with her daughter’s school’s policy requiring random urinalysis testing now wants to know at what point is it too much. As it was reported today in Penn Live, Kristin Cassell wants to know why her ten-year-old daughter Natalie was pulled from class three times this year to take a drug test. Natalie attends Susquenita Middle School which provides instruction for students in grades 5-8, and by participating in the school-sponsored Family and Consumer Science Club, she is subject to random testing for illegal drugs. Because participation in extracurricular activities is considered a privilege, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said schools can require mandatory drug testing to participate in sports and other clubs. Cassell thinks it is ridiculous that the taxpayers footed the three $45 urinalysis bills so that a fifth grade girl could go to meetings for a club she enjoys. Susquenita’s Superintendent said that students said that a computer program is used to select the student’s and that the more activities the student participates increases the frequency of testing.
One of the freedoms granted to citizens through the U.S. Constitution is the right to be protected from unreasonable searches. Originating in English Common Law under the belief that a man’s home is his castle, the Fourth Amendment states that people have the right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” What this means in practical terms is that government employees do not have the right to search a person’s body, home, or possessions. In other words, it is reasonable for a person to expect to have a right to privacy. For example, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that the person they stopped committed the crime. Without a search warrant, the police cannot enter a person’s home that is unless they can look through an open window and see the evidence in plain view.
Situations that involve juveniles claiming their Fourth Amendment rights were violated by school employees usually involve drug testing policies. Three landmark juvenile law cases that were brought to the U.S. Supreme Court led to modern day policies in which most schools can require their students to pass a drug test prior to participating in school-related extra-curricular activities. Typically, these policies only applied to high school students who wanted to participate in a sport. However, an article in The New York Times learned that it is now becoming more common for public schools to extend these mandatory drug testing policies to middle school students even though there is no known cases of children these ages testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, they held in Board of Education v. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002) that the school district’s policy requiring random urinalysis testing for drugs in order for middle and high school students to participate in extracurricular activities does not violate the student’s Constitutional rights.
Outside of Cumberland Valley School District, whose randomized drug testing policies only apply to high school students, two other local school districts, Carlisle and Derry Township do not administer drug testing to any of their students. The reason why schools began drug testing their student athletes originated with the belief that it would deter youth from using illegal drugs. As it was reported earlier this year in Fox News, Counsel and Heal found that 20 percent of U.S. high schools require their students to pass a drug test to participate in sports and other after-school clubs. What researchers also discovered was that there is no evidence that random drug testing decreases student’s substance use. The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published the results from a longitudinal study of a cohort of 361 high school students who were assessed to see if a positive school climate and/or student drug testing would successfully predicted a change in substance use. What the researchers learned was essentially that drug testing made no impact on drug use. Students in the experimental group were as likely to use illegal drugs as much as were the students in the control group who did not have drug testing at their schools. In the one-year follow-up, they learned that schools that promoted a favorable climate with good relationships between students and teachers had a reduction in cigarette and marijuana initiation.
If reason schools drug test their students does not accomplish its purpose, it seems illogical for them to continue random urinalysis especially for students who want to join the school chorus or art club. Then again, the reason given may not be the reason the tests are used. It could be that the schools simply want to do anything they can to stop students from using illegal drugs either on their own time or the schools which at some point does seem to be an invasion of privacy especially for a young middle schooler who passed each one of her drug tests and just wants to join a club to have some fun with her friends. Her mother believes these tests are intrusive and because there is no reasonable suspicion that her daughter is intoxicated that her name being drawn three times in less than 12 months is open to suspect. Now that the local newspaper is involved and will probably file a right to know request to learn the district’s numbers about the number of tests given to students it is more likely that being under public scrutiny may convince them them to make changes to their policy. Then again, the school districts have the discretion to adopt policies and procedures that they believe meet the needs of their community which is why the taxpayers are paying for ten-year-old to be drug tested.