When current Dartmouth student Lindsay Earls was in high school, she was forced to give a urine sample in order to take a music course and participate in choir. Charging that the school had violated her privacy guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, Earls sued her school.
While this story from Tecumseh (Okla.) High School has not recently been in the limelight, the case challenging mandatory and random drug testing for non-athletic extra-curricular activities will now be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March. Although the Court has already rightly ruled that athletic competitors can be tested for drug use, due to the nature of the activities, non-athletic activity participants should not be forced to do the same.
During the fall of her sophomore year, Earls submitted to a routine drug test given to all participants of her school's athletic and non-athletic activities. Earls, upset at the requirement, contacted the ACLU who provided her with a lawyer for the case in March 1999. In an Oklahoma district court the judge ruled in favor of the school, but Earls won in an appeal one year later.
Earls believes that her right to privacy has been violated, which is the most compelling argument she and her lawyer have made. While drug testing of suspected users should be allowed -- which Earls is not challenging -- the mandatory and random drug testing of non-athletic participants does not seem to have much purpose.
The ruling in Vernonia School District 47J v. Wayne Acton (1995), when the Supreme Court established that athletic teams could be tested due to the nature of athletics, produces fairer and safer competition. However, unlike with athletic endeavors, drugs are not widely known to enhance performance or increase the risk of injury in non-athletic endeavors.
Therefore, students not involved in such athletic activities should not undergo drug tests. The only effect of mandatory testing would be to discourage drug users from joining an extracurricular activity. This outcasting of drug users stands not only to further hurt the actual user, but ignores the central problem: drugs are plentiful or at least accessible in today's schools whether in the inner city, the suburbs or the country.
Schools should not be targeting drug users through non-targeted drug tests that invade personal privacy, but should rather work to reduce widespread teen drug and alcohol use. Creating and improving education programs and encouraging students to join extracurricular activities would more effectively accomplish this goal than drug testing.
While the U.S. Supreme Court is still months away from deciding the Earls case, the Court should stop testing in order to ensure students' privacy as well as help accomplish the true goals of the testing requirement.
Archived article by Sun Staff