Can a School Drug Test a Student Without the Parent's Permission?

School drug testing has become a controversial issue. While few schools randomly test students without cause, some make mandatory drug testing a prerequisite condition for participating in sports or other extracurricular activities. The rules differ from school to school; parents should read their school's regulations or talk to the school administrators to determine whether their child might be subject to random drug tests under certain circumstances.

Drug Testing in Schools

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court voted five to four to allow middle schools and high schools to conduct random drug tests on students participating in extracurricular activities. Around 14 percent of high schools conducted random drug tests on students in 2005, according to an article published in the May 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health; nearly all high schools randomly tested athletes, while 65 percent tested students participating in other extracurricular activities 3.

Drug Testing Permission

Some schools make mandatory or random drug testing a condition of certain activities, including extracurricular activities and privileges such as parking on campus. Parents who want their children to play sports or become involved in other activities or to drive to school must give permission for drug testing as well as permission for their child to participate in the activity. If parents don't give their permission, the school could impose other sanctions, such as keeping that student from playing sports.


Random drug testing on high school students may reduce drug use, although study results have not provided conclusive proof of this 5. In an Institute of Education Sciences study, 16 percent of students who underwent drug testing said they had used illicit substances in the past month, compared to 22 percent at schools without mandatory testing 4. Among students not subject to testing, there were no significant differences in drug use. In a November 2007 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University found a decrease in drug use at schools utilizing drug testing, but they also found more risk-taking behavior.

Local and State Laws

Local and state laws may differ on the constitutionality of mandatory or random drug testing on students, even if their parents give permission. Parents have challenged the law and had random drug testing without cause ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2005, according to the American Civil Liberties Union website 23. In other states, including Indiana, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington State and Texas, non-suspicious drug testing in schools was upheld by the state judicial system after parents brought lawsuits to challenge the practice.

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