Board of Ed. of Independent School Dist. No. 92 of Pottawatomie Cty. v. Earls, 536 U. S. 822 (2002)

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822

OCTOBER TERM, 2001

Syllabus

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 92 OF POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY et al. v. EARLS et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 01-332. Argued March 19, 2002—Decided June 27, 2002

The Student Activities Drug Testing Policy (Policy) adopted by the Tecumseh, Oklahoma, School District (School District) requires all middle and high school students to consent to urinalysis testing for drugs in order to participate in any extracurricular activity. In practice, the Policy has been applied only to competitive extracurricular activities sanctioned by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA). Respondent high school students and their parents brought this 42 U. S. C. 1983 action for equitable relief, alleging that the Policy violates the Fourth Amendment. Applying Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, 515 U. S. 646, in which this Court upheld the suspicionless drug testing of school athletes, the District Court granted the School District summary judgment. The Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that the Policy violated the Fourth Amendment. It concluded that before imposing a suspicionless drug testing program a school must demonstrate some identifiable drug abuse problem among a sufficient number of those tested, such that testing that group will actually redress its drug problem. The court then held that the School District had failed to demonstrate such a problem among Tecumseh students participating in competitive extracurricular activities.

Held: Tecumseh's Policy is a reasonable means of furthering the School

District's important interest in preventing and deterring drug use among its schoolchildren and does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 828-838.

(a) Because searches by public school officials implicate Fourth Amendment interests, see, e. g., Vernonia, 515 U. S., at 652, the Court must review the Policy for "reasonableness," the touchstone of constitutionality. In contrast to the criminal context, a probable-cause finding is unnecessary in the public school context because it would unduly interfere with maintenance of the swift and informal disciplinary procedures that are needed. In the public school context, a search may be reasonable when supported by "special needs" beyond the normal need for law enforcement. Because the "reasonableness" inquiry cannot dis-

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