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California State Appeals Court Blocks School Drug Tests

(09-03 2010) 17:58 PDT SACRAMENTO — In a ruling by California’s chief
justice nominee, a state appeals court has barred a school district
from drug testing all students in extracurricular activities such as
choir, the school band and Future Farmers of America.


The Shasta Union High School District in Northern California began
the testing in 2008, saying the prospect of being disqualified from a
favorite after-school activity would discourage youths from using
drugs or alcohol.

The district noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that
random drug tests of all students in extracurricular programs did not
violate the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches.
But the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento said Thursday
that the California Constitution’s guarantee of privacy is more
protective of individual rights than the U.S. Constitution and may
prohibit the drug screening.

The court upheld a Shasta County judge’s order halting the tests
until a lawsuit by a group of students goes to trial.
"The district has not shown a specialized need to target students
participating in (the activities) for drug and alcohol testing,"
Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in the 3-0 ruling.

She said there was no evidence of a drug problem among students in
programs like choir and Future Farmers of America, and little or no
evidence that testing them would serve any useful purpose.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has nominated Cantil-Sakauye to succeed
the state’s chief justice, Ronald George, who is retiring in January.
Voters will decide in November whether to confirm her to a 12-year

Attorney Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union,
representing the students who challenged the tests, said Friday he
was "thrilled the court recognized that random, suspicion-less
testing is a serious violation of privacy."
Risher said similar policies exist in a few other California school
districts, none in the Bay Area.

John Kelley, the school district’s lawyer, said the legality of the
testing program would be determined when the case went to trial. He
said a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education supports the
effectiveness of drug testing for students in extracurricular

Drug testing in the Shasta district was previously limited to
athletes, a program not challenged in the lawsuit. In support of the
expansion, the superintendent and a school board member said they had
heard reports of drug use in music programs.

But the superintendent, Michael Stuart, testified that the main
reason drug testing was extended to nonsports programs was the
district’s belief that it was free to do so after the 2002 Supreme
Court ruling.

Cantil-Sakauye said the district’s "vague and shifting
justifications" supported the Shasta County judge’s conclusion that
the program was likely to be found unconstitutional.
She also said drug testing of high school students, who would provide
urine samples to a monitor waiting outside the restroom, could be
considered more intrusive than testing of college athletes or safety
employees, which California courts have upheld.

"Teenagers have a greater self-consciousness about their bodies,"
Cantil-Sakauye said, "so monitored urination, like any search of the
body, has the potential to cause embarrassment and humiliation."
The ruling can be read at links.sfgate.com/ZKGI.

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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