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Congress Proposes Drug Testing
All High School Students


Summer 1999

On April 29, U.S. Rep. Jim Rogan (R-CA) introduced a bill "to require local educational agencies to develop and implement a random drug testing and counseling program for students in grades 9 through 12" with parental consent (H.R. 1642). A similar measure, introduced by U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson (R-PA), would require testing for all children except those whose parents decline to participate (H.R. 1735) (Anick Jesdanun, "Republicans Propose Drug Testing in Schools," Associated Press, April 29, 1999; "Colorado School Shooting Jumpstarts Federal Efforts for School Drug Testing," Drug Detection Report, May 6, 1999, p. 65).

Under Rogan's proposal, known as the Parental Consent Drug Testing and Counseling Act, 50% of the local grants would be used to perform random drug tests of high school students whose parents consent and 50% would be used to provide counseling services to high school students who test positive. Rogan's bill authorizes $1 billion each year for five years.

"The only way to have drug-free schools is to follow the successful program of the military and the workplace," said Peterson. He said a reduction in drug use could help prevent violent shootings, such as the Littleton, Colorado incident, although, in that incident, autopsies of the gunmen were not positive for drugs or alcohol, and there was no other evidence that they were drug users. One of them had been prescribed an antidepressant drug. Peterson's proposal, known as the Empowering Parents to Fight Drugs Act of 1999, applies to students in grades 7 through 12, sets no funding level, and requires state or local school authorities to cover half the testing costs.

In Rogan's plan, the test results go to the school and then the parents. Law enforcement is barred from the results. Peterson's measure provides for test results to go to a medical review officer and then directly to parents, and for school officials to be notified when there is a second positive result. Peterson's bill has one cosponsor, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families.

In Miami, testing of public school students for drug use ended one year after it was introduced. Funding for the program ended on July 1 and administrators are recommending it be canceled. Dade County was the largest district in the country to have random drug testing of the general student population in public schools. Only 37 of the county's 85,000 students were tested as part of the program, which was voluntary (Sabrina Walters, "Dade drops drug-testing of students," Miami Herald, July 1, 1999).

In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 that random drug testing of high school athletes does not violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. However, no court has condoned the random drug testing of all public school students (Veronia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 57Crl2200, 1995WL373274, 115 S.Ct. 2386 (June 26, 1995)).

On October 5, 1998, the high court let stand a 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision allowing an Indiana school district to randomly drug test all students who participate in extracurricular activities (Todd v. Rush County, No. 97-2021, 1998WL334388) ("U.S. Supreme Court Lets Indiana School District Drug Test Students Involved in Extracurricular Activities," NewsBriefs, September-October 1998, p. 29).

On March 22, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decision in an Indiana case that said forcing suspended students to submit to drug testing before they can return to school violates their privacy rights. In that case, the 7th Circuit ruled that, unlike students who voluntarily chose to play sports or engage in extracurricular activities, a boy who was suspended for five days for fighting and refused to submit to a urine test had not surrendered any of his privacy rights (Anderson Community School Corp. v. Willis, 158 F.3d 415 (1998)) (Joan Biskupic, "Court Refuses to Review Guidelines on School Drug Checks," Washington Post, March 23, 1999, p. A2; David G. Savage, "Court Limits Drug Testing of Students," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1999).

Rep. James Rogan - 126 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-4176, Fax: (202) 225-5828, E-mail: <>, Web: <>.

Rep. John E. Peterson - 307 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-5121, Fax: (202) 225-5796, E-mail: <>, Web: <>.