In 1998, 16-year-old Lindsay Earls was a model student. She was a member of the National Honor Society and in her school’s choir and marching band. But at Tecumseh High School in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, participation in extracurricular activities meant that she had to agree to be tested for illegal drug use.
Lindsay didn’t think that was fair, but she reluctantly agreed to be tested so she could continue taking part in school activities. (She passed.) Still, she and another student decided to sue the school district. They argued that its drug-testing policy violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” of Americans and their property.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Court sided with the school district. It said that “a student’s privacy interest is limited in a public school environment, where the state is responsible for maintaining discipline, health, and safety.” Testing for illegal drugs using urine analysis, said the Court, is minimally invasive. Therefore, such tests are “a reasonable means of furthering the school district’s important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren.”
The ruling gives public schools broad powers to conduct random drug testing. It expands the Court’s decision on an earlier case from 1995 that allowed drug testing of only student athletes.
Today, many middle and high schools across the U.S. have policies that allow school officials to conduct random drug testing of students.