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Board of Education v. Earls


A public school district required all students that want to participate in extracurricular activities to submit to drug testing. The students were to take a drug test before participation and then submit to random testing while participating in the activity. The tests were limited to detecting the use of illegal drugs.


Whether the government drug testing of students that engage in extracurricular activities is reasonable?


Yes. The government (school system) is responsible for providing a safe learning environment, and students that choose to participate in extracurricular activities have accepted a reduced expectation of privacy.


The Court held that “[A] student’s privacy interest is limited in a public school environment where the State is responsible for maintaining discipline, health, and safety.” This means that, in certain circumstances, the government can exert greater control than would otherwise be appropriate for adults. Focusing a drug test on those students that involve themselves with extracurricular activities is fitting as some of these activities “require occasional off-campus travel and communal undress.” Perhaps, more importantly, all of the activities impose requirements that do not apply to non-participating students. Participation reduces the students’ expectation of privacy. The Court held that “[G]iven the minimally intrusive nature of the sample collection and the limited uses to which the test results are put, we conclude that the invasion of students’ privacy is not significant.”


536 U.S. 822, 122 S. Ct. 822 (2002)

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