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Fourth Largest School District in U.S. to Implement Random Drug Testing


November-December 1997

Dade County (Florida) School District, the nation's fourth largest school district, is instituting a program of random drug testing for high school students beginning in January. The program will be a six-month pilot program which will require parental consent. The board member who proposed the testing, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, claims that, "The invasion of privacy is minimal in contrast to the benefit we gain in deterring drug use" (Mike Clary, "With Eye on Courts, School System OKs Student Drug Tests," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1997; Mirey Navarro, "Parents Support Florida School District's Offer of Drug Testing," New York Times, September 28, 1997).

The ACLU promises to challenge the policy. "The potential problem appears to be that the people whose rights are violated have been left out of the equation," said Andy Kayton, assistant legal director of the ACLU in Florida. "What happens when a student refuses to take a drug test? Are school administrators going to coerce a test or insist on disciplinary action?" In 1995, the United States Supreme Court ruled that public schools could require student athletes to submit to random urinalysis, but did not address the issue of drug-testing all students (Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 57CrL2200, US SupCt (1995)) (see "Supreme Court Set to Rule on High School Drug Testing Case," NewsBriefs, April 1995).

The school district is setting aside $200,000 for the program, and will pay an off-campus private laboratory for the testing. The school will get only cumulative data, not individual results. Parents will be notified of the test results, along with recommendations about where to seek help. Discipline and other decisions issues regarding a positive result will be left to the parents.

ALCU of Florida - (305) 576-2336.

Dade County School District - (305) 757-0514.