Early this morning – April, 29th – students at three Cleveland area high schools discovered that they would be required to supply a piece of their hair to be used for drug testing when they return to school next fall. The announcement was made to students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, St. Edward in Lakewood, and St. Ignatius in Cleveland. Parents were also notified of the new policy via email.
According to school administrators, the announcement was made in advance to give fair warning to the nearly 3,000 total students it would affect across the three campuses. Drug tests that use hair analysis can detect the presence of controlled substances from as long as three months ago. School officials have initiated the policy to identify students using or abusing drugs and provide them the appropriate counseling and treatment.
Recently, drug use among teens has hit Northeast Ohio hard. Students and faculty throughout the region are reporting high rates of prescription medication and heroin use, a trend that likely sparked the new drug testing policies at the three high schools. Other area high schools and districts are also considering implementing drug testing for students, student athletes, and staff.
Drug Testing in High Schools
Although some oppose mandatory drug testing, support for the new policy has come from students, parents, and other community members. For many, random, mandatory drug testing is more about deterrence than punishment, and more about getting students the help they need above all else. As the new policy will play out this coming school year, there is no doubt that students across Cleveland and Ohio will continue to face criminal allegations related to drugs, including possession.
Is random drug testing of students legal?
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court gave more authority to public schools that want to test their students for illicit drugs. The case, Board of Education v. Earls, stemmed from a program in a rural Oklahoma school district that required its students who participated in extracurricular activities to submit to random drug testing. The ruling still allowed for conscientious objectors, that is, students can refuse to submit to random drug testing without getting expelled. Refusing a drug test would only disqualify the student from participating in an extracurricular activity.
The case was appealed, and the appellate court ruled that the program violated the Fourth Amendment, which provides that we are entitled to be free from unreasonable searches. However, when the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, they overturned the appellate court’s decision.
So, if you’re a student and you’re being asked to submit to a random drug test, you have rights! You may be able to refuse these tests without having to face suspension or expulsion.
At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, our Columbus criminal defense attorneys represent high school and college students who have been charged with alcohol or drug related crimes. For more information, call 614-675-4845.