Should school officials be allowed to use student and undercover cops as informants within the school, mass suspicionless searches, random urine testing and tactics such as these to deter drug use among students? The answer is no, because these tactics invade personal freedoms. Yet the Supreme Court has time and again rubber-stamped drug war tactics used against students. The Court has consistently upheld the power of school authorities to curb students freedoms in the name of saving them from drugs. Hollister Gardner is a student from West Texas s Tulia High School.
He maintained an A average while serving as president of the National Honor Society, drum major in band and treasurer of Future Farmers of America. Gardner rebelled last year when he was informed that in order to keep participating in these extra-curricular activities that he would have to pass a drug test. Having never been involved with drugs, he was jaded at the implication that he was guilty until proven innocent. Gardner believed that the fourth amendment of the Bill of Rights protects United States citizens from such warrentless searches without reasonable suspicion.
Gardner never signed his release form and when the school notified him that he could no longer participate in after-school activities, he sued the Tulia Independent School District. Representing himself in federal court, Gardner argued the school board s drug-testing policy is unconstitutional. The school district can t test just because they feel like testing, he said. People fought and died for these rights, and they are not to be given up to the Tulia School Board just because they think they can take them from you. Not unexpectedly, Gardner and his family have paid emotionally, academically, and financially for their stand.
Gardner was not allowed to show his pig at the agricultural fair with the other members of his FFA chapter. His sister Sarah, who also did not sign her consent form, was told that she could not play in the band. The family also paid about $6,000 for transportation, court fees and administrative costs. Standing up for your rights is costly, Gardner said. Another person who has paid for standing up for their rights is a Savannah, Georgia history teacher named Sherry Hearn. She was Chatham County s 1994 teacher of the year.
She had been an outspoken critic of her district s policy of allowing lockdowns, or periodic, unannounced, school wide searches. During the two hour searches, students and teachers must stand in the hallways. Dogs search each room, bookbag, and purse while students are scanned with metal detectors. Hearn maintains such searches, without specific information that someone may possess drugs or weapons, are an invasion of constitutional rights and a dreadful message to be sending students. Hearn also said, The students were treated like criminals, with no evidence that they d done anything wrong.
Then during a lockdown on April 4, 1996 police say they found a partially smoked marijuana cigarette in Hearn s car, which had its windows rolled down and doors unlocked. Police refused to show her the evidence, claiming it had been accidentally destroyed. The search of her car with out her permission violated the written school policy, but that did not concern the administration. Hearn refused to report for a urine test within two hours as she was trying to secure legal representation. Despite a negative drug test the next day, she was suspended and eventually fired for what the administration says was insubordination.
Some places prefer more inconspicuous means than lockdowns to curb drug use. In Milwaukee s West Allis Hale High School, an undercover narcotics officer posed as a high school student for a two month long drug probe. The probe resulted in 16 student arrests and 9 nonstudent arrests. According to one of the arrested students, Lance Wallace, the undercover officer was guilty of entrapping the students by targeting suspected users and turning them into dealers by encouraging them to sell him small quantities of marijuana. Wallace told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Not one of the people he busted was a drug dealer.
Students claimed that the agent, known as Clint Carlson, drank alcohol with underage students and once drove a car while intoxicated. At one party, according to Wallace, Clint was begging people for weed. Chad Radtke, also a student at Hale, was approached by Clint. According to Radtke, He came up and sat nest to me and asked, Where can you get bud from around here? In a similar drug probe in Fayette County, Georgia the sheriff department had a program named Operation Free Zone students were rewarded $20 to turn in fellow students suspected of using or dealing drugs.
The department received some 224 tips. Teresa Nelson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sarcastically noted, I think its great to teach our children to be snitches. That s what they did in Nazi Germany. An intrusion upheld by the Supreme Court was that of random urinalysis of student athletes. The case came to the supreme court after a seventh-grade football player from Vernonia, Oregon named James Acton and his parents refused to sign the school districts drug testing consent form and young James was not allowed to participate.
The drug testing policy arose from the school s officials belief that disruptive behavior within the school was caused by drug use, and that the student athletes not only used drugs, but were also the leaders of the drug culture. The Supreme Court upheld the districts decision and the majority of the Supreme Court panel even went as far as to say that the fourth amendment does not need individualized suspicion to perform such broad student search policies.
In her dissent against the majority, Justice Sandra Day O Connor wrote, history and precedent establish that individualized suspicion is usually required under the fourth amendment. In response to the argument that the fourth amendment is more lenient in regard to school searches, she wrote, Intrusive, blanket searches of school children, most of whom are innocent, for evidence of serious wrongdoing are not part of any traditional school function of which I am aware.
As James Acton s father said on the witness stand, [suspicionless testing] sends a message to children that are trying to be responsible citizens that they have to prove that they re innocent, and I think that kind of sets a bad tone for citizenship. To say that all drug testing is harmful and an invasion of privacy is going too far. Drug testing for jobs such as pilots, drivers, train operators, high security government employees and other safety sensitive areas of employment are necessary.
On the other hand, the trend towards testing all employees gives employers police power over what employees do during off-duty hours. Critics of drug testing in the work place argue vehemently that drug testing does not test one s current fitness for duty, especially in the case of marijuana, which can show up in the urine for up to 70 days after consumption, long after the effects of the drug have worn off. Meanwhile, alcohol and other drugs are washed out of the system within a few hours, and cocaine does not show up immediately after being ingested. Also, most urinalysis does not check for alcohol levels.
We ve got reams and reams (of data) from the government itself that show urinalysis doesn t test impairment, states St. Pierre, executive director of the NORML Foundation. There are better ways to protect the public safety than to invade somebody s privacy, Maltby says. It is absolutely clear that impairment testing protects the public safety better than urine testing. Impairment testing, also called performance testing, involves using computerized video programs to test eye-hand coordination by requiring the employee to use a joy stick to keep a cursor in the middle of a screen.
An employee can be tested randomly, or daily for those with safety-sensitive positions, to see if he or she is impaired. One would think that drug education and school discipline would seek ultimately to produce more well-balanced adults who function with a sense of moderation and rationality. Yet, one cannot expect such results from a system that allows such tactics as dragnet searches and urinalysis without probable cause and use programs that reward children to tattle on fellow students and use agents to entrap our young people into becoming drug dealers.