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My Kid Is Drug-Free

Mandatory drug tests.

continued...

Brady has fared better than his father. The school board has stayed any disciplinary action against him until after the case is resolved, which won't likely happen before the end of the year. And neither the administration nor his fellow students have given him a hard time. "He went through school like nothing was happening," says Tannahill, who plans to home-school his son if he loses in court. "The kids here are being more adult about this than the adults are."

Lockney district officials say they decided to implement the new policy after concluding that their schools had a significant and growing drug problem. The board began discussing the policy in 1997, when 13 indictments were handed down against local drug dealers.

"The information [police] got from the dealers is that they were selling to the students," said Don Henslee, an Austin, Texas, lawyer representing the Lockney school system. "Based on that, the community literally insisted that the school system do something in terms of a drug policy."

It's an outcry that's been heard in school districts across the country. But after several decades of Supreme Court rulings, legal experts say that districts only have the clear right to test students engaged in sports or other extracurricular activities. Blanket testing of all students has not yet been reviewed by the high court.

The right of schools to test athletes stems from a 1995 case in which the Supreme Court upheld a Veronia, Ore., school district's policy of testing all student athletes. Other federal courts later expanded the scope of that ruling to include students involved in other school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

Writing for the majority in the Oregon case, Justice Antonin Scalia reasoned that testing student athletes is justified because other students might emulate them. "It seems to us self-evident that a drug problem largely fueled by the 'role model' effect of athletes' drug use, and of particular danger to athletes, is effectively addressed by making sure that athletes do not use drugs," he wrote.

Broad testing policies are being challenged in other parts of the country as well. In Maryland, the ACLU and a group of parents have filed suit against Talbot County school officials, who in January ordered urine testing of 18 students at Easton High School. All of them had attended a party where drugs were said to have been used. The specimen bottles were lined up on the stage of the school auditorium where they could be viewed by students, teachers, and parents. They were then tested with cheap throwaway kits similar to those used for home pregnancy tests.

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