Public schools should not impose mandatory drug testing on students
Previously published on March 3, 2008
Schools play almost as a significant of a role in raising a child as a parents; not only do children spend a relatively large portion of their day in school, but the education process shapes the behaviors, attitudes, and views on the world. In lieu of parental oversight, the concept of loco parentis extends part of the authority and responsibility of parenting to school officials while children are under the care of the schools; however, schools are not parents nor does their legal authority allow them to boundlessly intervene for the good of their students.
As drug use is widespread, schools may be tempted to engage in preventive measures, such as random drug testing for all students, but measures of these kind likely go too far as they violate the students' Constitutional rights. Employers all over America conduct random drug tests of their employees as conditions of their employments; however, this is allowed because drug use is unlawful, the employees are legal adults who can enter into legally binding contracts, testing is a condition of their work contract, and testing is not done to disenfranchise any particular group of employees.
Under the Law, children less then the age of eighteen can have their Constitutional freedoms modified for their own protection. This is done to ensure guardians have the authority to keep their children out of harms way while it also limits the ability of adolescents to enter into contractual obligation as they most often lack the judgment needed to understand the consequences of a contract. As schools are not parents, they do not have the authority to contract an agreement that school attendance is conditional on submission to random drug tests. Forcing parents to consent is a clear violation and disrespect of parental rights, thus, the school would be going one step beyond the intent of its authority.
Furthermore, as school attendance is mandatory and the authority of the state supersedes that of the schools, the Law cannot tolerate a practice that uses the legal obligation of parents to ensure their children attend school to leverage voluntary participation in a program required by school regulations. Moreover, the majority of students do not have criminal convictions demonstrating they have engaged in illegal drug use, so the school has no reason to obligate all students to drug testing, an unlawful search of person.
If schools are to conduct random drug testing, it must focus on students who have been prosecuted for drug use; thereby, safeguarding other students from the negative effects of drug use, but the Law must obligate drug abuses participation in a drug testing program as consequence of violating drug laws. On the other hand, schools were never intended to act as agents of the police nor do they have the authority to take on such a role; therefore, drug testing should be conducted by police agencies as drug abuse falls under the authority of the justice department. Schools should act as educational bodies not as an extension of law enforcement.
Drug use is a stain on the school system, but their authority gives them no right to unlawfully search students at random. If in the course of maintaining school regulations and order, school official uncover drug abuse or illegal substances on the person of a student, the the proper authorities need to be involved so they can fulfill their obligations as the school's disciplinary authority does not nor should extend beyond enforcing school regulations. Therefore, drug testing should be conducted by the police as schools are intended to be academic havens.