Vanderbilt Law Review


James M. McCray

First Page



The United States makes clear its reverence for education by demanding that its children attend school.' What is less clear, how- ever, is the nation's dedication to each student's constitutional rights. From the earliest days of the common law, public school students have lacked fundamental rights, even the right of liberty in its narrowest sense.' Although public students retain certain constitutional rights,' the public school system maintains an elevated power over its students." This power is like that of a parent,' including the duty to "inculcate the habits and manners of civility" into its students.' The public school's control over the student is "custodial" and "tutelary,"' permitting a school to flex its authority over students within its halls, even when the state could not control free adults.'

Schools possess a legitimate interest in maintaining a conducive learning environment, arguably justifying this elevated control over students.! In addition, the ever-increasing presence of drug use within public schools poses a significant threat to the school's educational serenity." The Supreme Court has recognized that deterring students from using drugs is not only important, but compelling," as the deleterious and adverse consequences of drug use climax during the school years. Because of the increasing presence of drugs and the consequences of drug use, America's public schools must continually seek solutions to combat students' drug use.

Using Acton as the leading paradigm, coupled with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' persuasive reasoning in its Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, illustrated in Todd v. Rush County Schools, this Note argues that a logical extension of precedent necessitates the conclusion that public schools may constitutionally require students who voluntarily enroll in extracurricular activities to undergo random, suspicionless drug testing. Part II surveys the history of drug testing, including its Fourth Amendment implications. Part III then analyzes lower court decisions that have addressed the constitutionality of testing public school students involved in extracurricular activities for drugs. Finally, Part IV proposes a legal framework explaining why courts should allow schools to subject their students to drug testing, notwithstanding potential moral and ethical problems. As America's school drug problem surges, courts must recognize the challenge of maintaining a conducive learning environment-the basic educational mission of schools-and balance this with students' fundamental interest in privacy.