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Board of Ed of Independent School Dist No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls
536 U.S. 822 (2002)
Facts: In 1998, an Oklahoma school district passed a policy requiring all middle and high school students who wanted to engage in competitive extracurricular activities to submit urine for drug testing. Teachers who stood outside restroom stalls collected the samples from the students. If the test results were positive, they were kept private except for notifying the parents and the referral of the student to counseling. Students were not reported to the authorities, and exclusion from extracurricular activities might have resulted solely through repeated positive tests or refusals to participate in counseling. Lindsay Earls and Daniel James, two Tecumseh High School students, and their parents filed a lawsuit against the school board. They alleged that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment and requested injunctive and declarative relief. They also argued that the school district failed to identify a special need for testing students who participate in extracurricular activities, and that the “Drug Testing Policy neither addresses a proven problem nor promises to bring any benefit to students and/or the school. The federal district court upheld the policy, allowing the board’s move for summary judgment, citing Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, in which the Supreme Court decided that suspicion less drug testing of student athletes was lawful. However, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Earls and James, finding that the policy did indeed violate the Fourth Amendment. According to the report, schools must “show that there is an identifiable drug misuse problem among a sufficient quantity of those subject to the testing, such that testing that group of students will actually correct its drug problem.” The school district had not complied with this duty, according to the Tenth Circuit.
Issue: Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which enforces drug testing for all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities, in compliance with the Fourth Amendment?
Holding: Tecumseh’s Policy is a reasonable means of furthering the School District’s important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
Rationale: On March 19, 2002, the matter was heard by the United States Supreme Court. The court reasoned, as it did in Vernonia, that students who participate in extracurricular activities had low privacy expectations. It also determined that the testing process was constitutionally permitted, and that the policy clearly stated that anonymity was necessary. Furthermore, the court ruled that the invasion of students’ privacy was not serious because the results were not given to the police and the only real consequence was disqualification from extracurricular activities. The court then claimed that the evidence of drug use presented by school authorities was adequate to establish the policy because drug testing was not required because the court had not required a particularized or pervasive drug problem to sanction it. As a result, the court concluded that the policy was in the best interests of the board in preserving the safety and health of its students. The court later determined that the policy was a legitimate means in order to reach the district’s goal of preventing student drug use. The Supreme Court decided that the policy did not violate the Fourth Amendment based on its findings, and it overturned the Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling officially.
Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. V. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002). Justia Law, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/536/822/.
Bd. of Educ. V. Earls – 536 U.S. 822, 122 S. Ct. 2559 (2002). Community, https://www.lexisnexis.com/community/casebrief/p/casebrief-bd-of-educ-v-earls.
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