ACLU Challenges Student Drug Testing at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School

News Release: 
Friday, November 20, 2009

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, several parents, students, and a football coach are challenging a plan for suspicionless drug testing of students at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School. The plaintiffs object to the drug testing requirement because it violates students’ privacy rights and interferes with parents’ rights to determine how to raise their children. They also believe it is an ineffective policy likely to drive away some students who can most benefit from cocurricular activities. The lawsuit was filed today in Kittitas County Superior Court.

“Washington has a proud tradition of protecting personal privacy. Our courts have made clear that a public school student should not be searched unless there is good reason to believe that he or she has done something wrong,” said ACLU Legal Program Director Julya Hampton.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are:

  • Kimberly Main, her daughter Chelsey Main, who is Vice-president of the Senior Class and plays clarinet in the Pep Band, and son Robbie Main, who is Vice-president of the Junior class. “The random testing policy invades our privacy. It searches our bodies without cause,” said Robbie Main. “It’s not up to school to police my children. I’d rather see the money spent on random testing go toward education,” said Kimberly Main.
  • Mike Nevills, a retired English teacher and a football coach at the high school who has coached for more than 25 years. “Random drug testing without suspicion presumes students are guilty. It is more reasonable and effective to do drug testing only when there is suspicion someone is using drugs,” said Nevills.
  • Jock Young, physician Elizabeth Wise, and their daughter Sierra Young, who is a junior at the high school, an Honor student, and Treasurer of the Key Club. “Drug testing without suspicion is not justified and is not an effective means of reducing drug use. The school should instead offer students information about the dangers of drug use, give teachers information about how to effectively educate students not to use drugs, and provide help to students who want it,” said Jock Young. 

In May 2005, Cle Elum-Roslyn School District adopted a policy requiring any student participating in a cocurricular activity to consent in writing to suspicionless drug testing before the start of the activity’s season. Parents must also consent to their children being tested. Students will be chosen randomly for testing, with a series of escalating punishments for students testing positive. Before the policy was adopted, the District rejected a proposal by several athletic coaches to conduct drug testing only where there is reasonable suspicion to suspect that a student is abusing illegal drugs or alcohol.

The lawsuit contends that the policy of suspicionless testing violates the “privacy clause” of the Washington Constitution (Article I, Section 7), which provides that “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” In Kuehn v. Renton School District, an ACLU case, the Washington Supreme Court in 1985 ruled that it is unconstitutional for public schools to search a student without individualized suspicion that he or she is breaking a law or school rule. In that case, officials at Hazen High School in Renton had sought to search a student’s luggage prior to a school band trip.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld random student drug testing under the federal constitution, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2003 struck down random suspicionless drug testing of student participants in extracurricular activities under that state’s constitution.
Studies have found that suspicionless student drug testing is not effective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan between 1998 and 2001, found no difference in rates of drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. Dr. Lloyd Johnson, an author of the study, said, “(The study) suggests that there really isn’t an impact from drug testing as practiced … I don’t think it brings about any constructive changes in their attitudes about drugs or their belief in the dangers associated with using them.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the District from implementing the suspicionless testing policy and a ruling that it violates the state constitution. ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan is handling the case.