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Programs of Drug Testing in Schools

    The status of drug testing is somewhat different in schools than in the workplace. While the majority of large businesses now maintain drug testing programs for employees, relatively few school systems do. In a number of cases, proposals for drug testing in schools have been defeated by public opposition or by court decisions. In addition, schools are govern­ment institutions. Students are, therefore, protected by the Fourth Amendment.

One example is the drug testing program suggested by the Carl stadt-East Rutherford Regional Board of Education in New Jersey. In August 1985, the board adopted a policy that called for complete physical examinations of all students in the district. All students would be asked to provide urine samples on which a number of tests would be performed, including one looking for evidence of alcohol or drug abuse. Further, the policy stated that any student whose urine tested positive for drugs or alcohol would be assigned to "an appropriate rehabilitation program designed to help the student recognize the danger [of drug and alcohol abuse] and to remedy any problem that exists.

A group of students sued the school district, claiming that the physical examinations constituted an illegal search of their bodies. A state court agreed with the students, stating, assuming that this is strictly and solely a medical examination to inquire into a medical condition, a position which this court does not accept, I would still find that the activities [of the school officials] violate the reasonable privacy expectations of school children.

    Other school administrators view drug testing programs as a reasonable way of dealing with a difficult and growing problem in schools. In 1995, for example, the superintendent of schools in Lexington, Kentucky, proposed a system wide program of drug testing for any faculty member or student suspected of abusing alcohol or drugs. That proposal was not acted upon, however, despite the superintendent's expressed belief that the problem of drug and alcohol abuse constituted a "life-or-death situation." He expressed confidence that the program would eventually win approval by the school board.

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