Drug testing in American schools


The Illegal Use Of Drugs
Learner Rights Of Privacy
Random Searches
Testing For Drugs


As the use of illegal drugs has reached epidemic proportions in schools, educational leaders in the United States have turned to drug testing in attempting to maintain learner discipline. To this end, the United States Supreme Court has addressed the issue twice in the past eight years. In 1995, the Court permitted drug testing in Acton v. Vernonia School District 47J. More recently, in Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie v. Earls (2002), the Court upheld suspicionless drug testing of learners who wished to participate in extracurricular activities.

Even though drug testing has yet to emerge as an issue in South Africa, Earls is significant for educational leaders and policy makers in South Africa since it involves concerns under the National Policy on Privacy. More specifically, under Items 20 and 21 of the South African National Policy on the Management of Drug Abuse (SA, 1996b) searches and drug testing should only be used where there is reasonable suspicion, the same standard applied by American courts. However, unlike the United States, the South African policy prohibits random searches and/or drug testing. Thus, due to constitutional and educational issues that drug testing raises, a timely discussion of this matter should be of interest to educational leaders and policy makers in South Africa.

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