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Supreme Court Allows School Drug Tests

Aired June 27, 2002 - 10:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: You know how we are with breaking news. We've got some now coming from the Supreme Court.

Let's go now to Bob Franken -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this is the other opinion that was one of high interest. By a 5-4 margin, an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court has expanded the right of school systems to conduct drug tests. They have ruled in an Oklahoma case that it is -- quote -- "entirely reasonable for the school district to enact this particular drug testing policy."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (on camera): This was not about drug tests for student athletes. The Supreme Court had already ruled that was OK to protect the physical safety of the student athlete. This time, the question involved all extracurricular activities.

The case: Lindsay Earls versus the board of education of Tecumseh Public High School. In 1998, the students at the Oklahoma high school were confronted with a sweeping new regulation. If they participated in the choir, the band, debating team, whatever the after-school activity, they had to take a drug test.

GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: To attack the problem at the youngest level is to assure, at least, we hope we can assure, that the problem will be less significant when those people become adults.

FRANKEN: Choir member then Lindsay Earls filed a lawsuit.

LINDSAY EARLS, FORMER STUDENT, TECUMSEH H.S.: Just because we're going to school doesn't give them the right to be able to just come in and take things from our bodies and make us prove that we're innocent of something before -- you know, that we're not doing anyway.

FRANKEN: A federal district court upheld the school board, but an appeals court overturned it last year, deciding that drug testing for all extracurricular activity violated the rights of students who had given no evidence of a drug problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: So the ruling and the opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas is "The need to prevent and deter the substantial harm of childhood drug use provides the necessary immediacy for a school testing policy."

Now, there was a dissent, and it says that -- in the dissent, it says that this, in fact, could be capricious, that this, in fact, could be a school policy that is maladministered, but the decision by a 5-4 ruling is that school boards will be allowed to put in policies that will allow drug testing for all extracurricular activities.

Leon, it expands a ruling that had been made earlier, that athletes could be drug tested.

We are, of course, waiting for the Cleveland School vouchers decision. I will bring that to you as quickly as I get it.

HARRIS: All right. Good deal, Bob. Bob, before I let you go, that 5-4 lineup there with the judges. Is that the traditional lineup that we have seen of late in decisions like this in the past few years?

FRANKEN: No. Just forget the traditional lineups this year. They have been all over the map. This particular lineup included Thomas, Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer, who is not normally considered one of the conservatives. So Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in fact, in this particular case, she is usually a swing vote, but she was in the minority dissenting.

HARRIS: Very interesting. Thanks, Bob. All right. We'll get back to you, and we are going to let you go back inside the court. We'll get back to you once you get the ruling on that school voucher issue, which we'll be talking -- that one coming up this morning as well.

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