Is Mandatory Drug Testing of Students Legal?

February 4, 2016 | By admin

Some schools across the country have responded to the growing drug abuse problem among students by pushing for mandatory drug testing.

There are a growing number of proponents of more aggressive strategies for fighting drug use in schools. One of the more controversial strategies being considered is mandatory drug testing of students, which uses urinalysis to determine whether a student has used marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines or opioids. The idea behind student drug testing is to identify potential drug abuse before it gets out of control, thus allowing intervention by school officials, health officials and concerned family members. The hope is that these young people will then be able to get the help and treatment they need.

The question is: Do school have a legal right to test students for drug use? Current federal law is silent on whether drug testing in schools is okay. In the absence of federal legislation, the courts have stepped into the void to address the issue of school drug testing programs.

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Vernonia School District v. Acton, an important school drug testing case. The Court held that public schools could implement random drug testing programs, but only for student athletes. This athletes-only precedent was later challenged in Board of Education v. Earls , a 2002 case stemming from an Oklahoma school police of randomly drug testing students who participated in non-athletic extracurricular activities. The Supreme Court then ruled that random drug testing of students could be more widespread, allowing public schools to drug test students participating in competitive extracurricular activities. The majority decision specifically noted that random drug testing is “a reasonably effective means” of dealing with serious concerns about drug use by students.

That’s at the national level. At the state level, things become more complicated. For example, the New Jersey state constitution explicitly rules that random, suspicionless drug testing is unconstitutional. As a result, schools in NJ can only conduct random drug testing of students by demonstrating a special need to test those students.

To learn more about the debate over mandatory drug testing in schools, check out the article, “Should Students Be Drug Tested at School?”


If you or a loved one has been arrested for simple possession of marijuana, prescription drug possession or any other drug crime in New Jersey, you deserve a qualified criminal defense lawyer on your side. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A. will help you fight your drug crime charges. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.


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