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Drug Testing Student Athletes: Is It Legal?

Every year, schools work hard to keep students safe and drug-free. One way they do this is by using a drug-testing program for student-athletes. The goal is to stop drug use and teach athletes about the dangers of drugs. This helps create a drug-free sports environment and supports the health of the athletes.

Student-athletes may have to take part in random drug testing. This article will explain why and under what circumstances schools can drug test student-athletes.

Cases About Student-Athlete Drug Testing

Americans have always valued their privacy. Because of this, there have been cases filed challenging random drug testing of students. The United States Supreme Court has found that random drug testing of student-athletes is not a violation of privacy. This is under its interpretation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

In the 1995 Vernonia School District v. Acton case, the Supreme Court upheld a school district's policy. The policy required students to consent to random drug testing to take part in sports. The Court found that random drug testing was justified. The finding was because student-athletes had a lower expectation of privacy compared with the average person. It was also because there was a higher risk of physical harm due to an athlete's use of drugs.

In the 1994 case Hill v. NCAA, the California Supreme Court set an important precedent. The court decided that drug testing student-athletes in college was constitutional. The plaintiffs were student-athletes. They argued that random drug testing of student-athletes violated their privacy rights. They cited their right to privacy under the California constitution. The California Supreme Court agreed that people had a right to privacy. But, it determined that college athletes have a lesser expectation of privacy. This is because these students voluntarily submit to frequent physical exams. And they share their medical and body conditions with trainers and coaches.

In 2002, the Supreme Court extended the cases in which students can be randomly drug tested. In the Board of Education v. Earls case, the Supreme Court made an important decision on an Oklahoma policy. This school policy allowed random drug testing of students in non-athletic but competitive activities. The Court held this drug testing was constitutional.

Drug Testing Policies

It is now legal to drug test student-athletes in high school and college. The drug testing policy for high school students will vary by school district. This is because the school district governs the school. Look into your particular school district's policy about drug testing.

Every academic year, schools explain their drug policies to athletes. The athletic director and department ensure everyone knows which drugs are banned substances. Students might have to give urine samples for testing. If they use supplements, they should be careful because some might have banned substances in them.

Before playing, student-athletes often sign a consent form. This form says they agree to get tested. The athlete might face punishments or sanctions if there's a positive drug test.

NCAA Drug Testing

While drug testing policies vary from high school to high school, there is some uniformity among colleges because the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sets basic guidelines for drug testing student-athletes. The NCAA website has a page dedicated to frequently asked questions about drug testing student-athletes.

The penalty for a positive test for a performance-enhancing or street drug is strict:

  • A student athlete's first positive test results in losing one full year of eligibility and exclusion from competition for an entire season.
  • If a student-athlete tests positive for a street drug a second time, they will lose another year of eligibility. They will be unable to take part in competition for another year.
  • A student-athlete who tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug a second time becomes permanently ineligible.

The NCAA bans drugs by class, which includes any substance chemically related to that class. Some examples of prohibited drugs are street drugs, anti-estrogens, anabolic agents, and stimulants. Masking agents, such as diuretics, are also banned by the NCAA.

Getting Legal Help

If you or someone close to you is a student-athlete and you have questions about drug testing, you can get legal help. Lawyers can help explain the intersection of athletics, education, and drug use. They can help student-athletes understand their rights. They can also help if a student-athlete feels they were unfairly tested.

Contact an education attorney in your area about your legal issue today.

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