Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls

PETITIONER: Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty.
RESPONDENT: Earls
LOCATION: Oklahoma School District

DOCKET NO.: 01-332
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 536 US 822 (2002)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 2002
DECIDED: Jun 27, 2002

ADVOCATES:
Graham A. Boyd - Argued the cause for the respondents
Linda M. Meoli - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Paul D. Clement - Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners

Facts of the case

The Student Activities Drug Testing Policy adopted by the Tecumseh, Oklahoma School District (School District) requires all middle and high school students to consent to urinalysis testing for drugs in order to participate in any extracurricular activity. Two Tecumseh High School students and their parents brought suit, alleging that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment. The District Court granted the School District summary judgment. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment. The appellate court concluded that before imposing a suspicionless drug-testing program a school must demonstrate some identifiable drug abuse problem among a sufficient number of those tested, such that testing that group will actually redress its drug problem, which the School District had failed to demonstrate.

Question

Is the Student Activities Drug Testing Policy, which requires all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities to submit to drug testing, consistent with the Fourth Amendment?

Media for Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 2002 in Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 27, 2002 in Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in No. 01-332, The Board of Education of Independent School District No.92 of Pottawatomie County versus Earls will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The Tecumseh School District enacted a Drug Testing Policy that requires all middle and high school student to consent to drug testing in order to participate in any extra curricular activity.

Respondent high school students and their parents brought a Section 1983 action against the School District.

Alleging that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment and that the School District failed to identify a special need for testing student who participate in extra curricular activities.

Relying on our decision in Vernonia School District versus Acton, the District Court granted summary judgment to the School District and upheld the policy.

The Court of Appeals reversed and held that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reversed.

In Vernonia, we upheld the suspicion research drug testing of athletes.

In doing so, we relied heavily on the fact that the policy tested children attending public schools and this such was undertaken in furtherance of the Government responsibilities as guardian and tutor of children entrusted to its care.

We apply Vernonia’s principles to the somewhat different facts of this case.

First, the nature of the privacy interest allegedly compromised by the drug testing as minimum as students affected by the policy have a limited expectation of privacy.

Second, the invasion of the students’ privacy is not significant given the minimally intrusive nature of the sample collection and the limited uses to which the test results are put.

The tests results are not turned over to any law enforcement authority, nor do the results lead to imposition of disciple or have any academic consequences.

Finally, considering the nature and immediacy of the Government's concerns and the efficacy of the policy in meeting them, we conclude that the policy effectively serves the School District's interest in protecting the safety and health of the students.

Accordingly, we hold that the policy does not violate the Fourth Amendment because it is a reasonable means of furthering the School District's important interest in the determining drug use among school children.

Justice Breyer has filed the concurring opinion; Justice O’Conner has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Souter has joined, and Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Stevens, O’Conner and Souter have joined.