Drug Testing in Public Schools
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The Fourth Amendment
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The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of The Bill of Rights. This particular amendment reads as follows:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized".

In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply under any given situation, the government must be conducting the search in question. The amendment does not protect an individual against searches conducted by a private citizen. Here, public school officials who administer school searches are not considered private citizens, but rather agents of a public entity. The United States Supreme Court has concluded that "in carrying out searches and other disciplinary functions…school officials act as representatives of the State, not merely as surrogates for the parents, and they cannot claim the parents’ strictures of the Fourth Amendment." New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 336 (1985). In other words, as a public servant, such action by a school official is subject to the protections set forth in the Fourth Amendment.

In addition to the conclusion that the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizers extended to acts by public school officials, it was further determined by the Supreme Court that the "probable cause" standard articulated in the Fourth Amendment was too high a standard to be applied in school searches. Instead, the Court ruled that the controlling standard would be "reasonable suspicion" in determining the constitutionality of such searches. This essentially means that a search would be constitutional if there were reasonable grounds to believe that such a search would likely produce evidence that the student violated either a school rule or a law.

Next, we’ll explore how this information applies to administering drug tests to students in public schools.