The Rehnquist Court (1986–2005)

Criminal Justice

Can school officials drug-test students?

Yes. In a pair of decisions, Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995) and Board of Education v. Earls (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court approved of the drug testing of students participating in school-sponsored extracurricular activities. The Court in Vernonia upheld an Oregon school district’s policy of random drug testing for athletes. The majority reasoned that student athletes already have limited expectations of privacy in communal locker rooms. The Court also focused on the privacy of the drug tests.

The Court in Earls upheld a Tecumseh, Oklahoma, school district’s policy of random drug testing for all students engaged in extracurricular activities. The Court noted that students participating in extracurricular activities often have limited privacy interests similar to athletes. The majority also emphasized that the drug test results were not shared with law enforcement officials.

The Court did not, however, sanction the random drug testing of all students.


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