ACLU: Proposed drug testing is unconstitutional

ACLU: Proposed drug testing is unconstitutional

Posted: Friday, August 07, 2009

The proposed mandatory drug testing program for high school athletes is unconstitutional, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska.

The ACLU of Alaska urged the Juneau School District to consider policies that are "less intrusive" than mandatory drug-testing programs in a July 29 letter to Destiny Sargeant, a School Board member and chairwoman of a drug testing task force.

Random drug testing violates several provisions of the Alaska Constitution, the letter said, citing search and seizure protections and the right to privacy.

Jeffrey Mittman, executive director for the ACLU of Alaska, said Thursday the organization wants to help "create a policy that works" for the school district. He would not say whether the organization would file a lawsuit.

The task force released draft recommendations to the School Board on Thursday, and the School Board is expected to make decisions on the recommendations this month.

"At this point there's a process that's considering information," Mittman said. "We feel it's our duty to share our analysis. But the ACLU will always vigorously defend against improper government action."

Juneau attorney Paul Grant, an ACLU of Alaska board member, said he thought he was put on the task force to provide perspective on the constitutional issues drug testing raises.

Grant said he became frustrated when it became apparent the task force had a pre-ordained vision to develop a mandatory testing program.

"I tried to raise the point that we ought to have the discussion to say (mandatory testing) is not a good idea. That was very quickly ruled out of order," he said.

Grant said he was invited to join the task force by School Board President Mark Choate, who is also an attorney.

At least three school districts in Southeast Alaska have mandatory drug testing programs for student athletes. The Ketchikan district has been drug testing athletes for seven years.

Mittman said the ACLU just recently became aware of those programs.

"Obviously it's a concern and we will begin investigation into these districts," he said.

The Alaska Supreme Court has not been asked to decide the constitutionality of student drug testing.

The state constitution offers stronger privacy protections than the U.S. Constitution, according to a June legal opinion written for the Juneau School District.

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