Opinion

SOUNDOFF: Adopt student drug testing

I am sure you are aware that most schools and their athletic programs have their issues, such as weapon control and the use of illegal drugs. Due to my extensive research, I have developed a strong opinion concerning whether or not drug testing student athletes is right. If a student is planning on participating in a school related function they should be required to be tested for any performance-enhancing drugs.

The use of drug tests is a relatively new phenomenon in the school setting, and the law is still evolving. The Supreme court in June 1995 upheld a policy of the Vernonia, Oregon, school district that requires all students who wish to participate in the school’s athletic program to submit to periodic, random drug testing. The Vernonia policy was effective: teachers noted a decrease in drug use and an improvement in discipline.

Drug testing of a student by a public school official is a search that must comply with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits all unreasonable searches and seizures by state officers. Reasonableness is determined by balancing the governmental interest behind the search against the privacy interest of the person tested. The court recognized the “government’s responsibilities, under a public school system, as guardian and tutor of children entrusted to its care.” (Veytsman, 3). The Court noted that deterring drug use by the nation’s schoolchildren, in general, is “important, perhaps compelling.” (Veytsman 3). It further noted the substantial physical risks posed by student athlete drug use, where the risk of immediate physical harm to the drug user or teammates is particularly high.

The court underscored the severity of the drug problem that existed within the school district whose policy was at issue and the fact that athletes were an active part of the school’s drug-using population. Thus, the court observed that the drug problem was largely fueled by the “role model” effect of athletes’ drug use.

Against this governmental interest, the court balanced the privacy intrusion endured by student athletes who are drug tested. The court acknowledged that urinalysis drug tests are searches within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment that intrude upon a significant privacy interest. However, the court held that athletes, unlike other members of the student population, have reduced expectations of privacy due to the “element of communal undress” inherent in athletic participation. Moreover, student athletes voluntarily subject themselves to preseason physical examinations and a higher degree of regulation than other students through compliance with codes of conduct, dress, and maintenance of minimum grade point averages.

Schools have contracts, codes of conduct, which are required to be signed by the student athlete and their legal guardian before participating in the activity. The contract states all the rules and regulations that are to be followed by the student athlete while participating in the school related function. One rule and regulation is the prohibition of consumption of any illegal substances. If the student has signed this contract they are required to follow it. If they attempt to do so and stay honest with their athletic director, coaches, and teammates they should be willing to take the tests without any suspicions of the results testing positives for drugs.

I hope this letter has persuaded you to think that under good reasoning and positive motives drug testing student athletes is lawful and helpful in terms of reducing the amount of drug use in our schools and athletic programs. If a student is planning on participating in a school-related function, such as athletics, they should be required to be tested for any performance-enhancing drugs before participating in the activity and randomly throughout.

Heather Davis lives in Coupeville.

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