Washington State Supreme Court Rules Random Drug Testing Violates Students

Press Release March 12, 2008
Media Contact

Jennifer Kern at (415) 373-7694 or Tamar Todd at (510) 229-5213

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Wahkiakum School District’s random drug testing policy is unconstitutional and violates student athletes’ rights under the higher privacy protections of article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution.

The Drug Policy Alliance and the Washington Education Association (WEA) filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in the case arguing that random student drug testing is unsupported by scientific research, may deter students from participating in extracurricular activities, undermines trust in student-teacher relationships while creating a hostile school environment and may evoke oppositional behavior in students who may try to “beat” the test, among other concerns.

“The Washington State Supreme Court should be praised for making a principled decision based on the state’s constitution that random student drug testing is a serious and unwarranted intrusion by the state on the bodies and privacy of students,” said Jennifer Kern, research associate with the Drug Policy Alliance. “The decision, while grounded in constitutional principles, is all the stronger for coinciding with good public policy. Random student drug testing is ineffective, unreliable and counterproductive. Such programs waste valuable resources and distract from developing proven interventions that prevent and reduce harmful drug use by students.”

In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice Madsen cited the public policy objections to testing raised in the amicus brief, stating, “As pointed out by the Washington Education Association and Drug Policy Alliance in their amicus brief, drug testing may actually be counterproductive, as participation in athletic activities is itself an important factor in discouraging drug use and the drug testing program may actually discourage such participation, isolating students from healthy activities.”

The ACLU of Washington represented the parents and students in the Wahkiakum School District.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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