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Vernonia School District vs. Acton

Government "Final"
by

Shannon Montagno

on 12 December 2012

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Transcript of Vernonia School District vs. Acton

1995 Supreme Court Case Vernonia School District vs. Acton Vernonia School District In 1991, James Acton, then a seventh grader, signed up to play football at one of the district's grade schools. He was denied participation because his parent's refused to sign the testing consent forms. The Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution provides that the
Federal Government shall not violate
"[t]he right of the people to be secure
in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, . . . ." The Acton's filed suit, seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief
from enforcement of the Policy
on the grounds that it
violated the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments In a case such as this, where there was no clear practice, either approving or disapproving the type of search at issue, at the time the constitutional provision was enacted whether a particular search meets the reasonableness standard is judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests. A search is undertaken by law enforcement officials to discover evidence of criminal wrongdoing, this Court has said that reasonableness generally requires the obtaining of a judicial warrant. Summary of case Vernonia School District Acton vs. Student athletes were required to submit to random drug testing before being allowed to participate in sports. During the season, 10% of all athletes were selected at random for testing. The Supreme Court held that although the tests were searches under the Fourth Amendment, they were reasonable in light of the schools' interest in preventing teenage drug use. One family, the Acton's, refused to sign the papers because they felt they were violating their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. So they took it to court. Because of a noticeably large drug use increase, the Vernonia School District made a requirement for all students in athletic programs to sign drug test consent forms in hopes of preventing further use. The Acton family had a son who wanted to participate in grade school football. The required drug testing consent forms were a problem for this family, so they refused to sign them because they felt it violated Constitutional rights. Which in turn caused their son to not be able to participate in the sport. The Acton's filed suit and took the school district to court. Because of the drug use disciplinary problems arose and the district later on found that the athletes were the "leaders of the drug culture." In response to finding this information, the school district offered special classes, speakers, and presentations to the students. These events were intended to deter drug use. They brought a specially trained dog to detect drugs, but the drug problem still hindered. After inviting comments from the parents of the district's students, the district adopted a drug testing plan for all athletes to participate in. They developed a form that was required for the student, as well as the parents to sign to basically say that they understand they/their children will indeed be drug tested if participating in sports. All athletes were tested in the beginning of the season, and 10% thereafter were required to be tested randomly throughout the season. Court Arguments and Opinions Among public school students, athletes have even less of an expectation of privacy. They suit up in locker rooms before practice. They take communal showers afterward. They subject themselves to additional regulation and medical screenings in order to participate in school sports. "Somewhat like adults who choose to participate in a 'closely regulated industry,' students who voluntarily participate in school athletics have reason to expect intrusions upon normal rights and privileges, including privacy." Urine analysis intrudes upon a person's privacy in two ways. First, you are monitored while providing the actual sample. In the case of the Vernonia policy, the boys were visually monitored from behind while providing the sample. The girls were monitored by ear from outside a closed stall. The Court considered this a "negligible" intrusion on the person's privacy.
Second, the test discloses personal information concerning "the state of the subject's body and the materials he (or she) has ingested." But the school was testing only for the use of drugs, not whether the student was for example, diabetic or pregnant.
The results of the test were disclosed only to a small group of school officials and not to law enforcement.
Although the Vernonia policy required students to disclose prescription drugs the student was taking in advance, the Court was unwilling to assume that the school district would misuse the medical information disclosed to it by student athletes.
The Court thus concluded that the invasion of privacy was "not significant." The court dissented or disagreed with Vernonia's actions for the reason of “suspicionless searches” of students, and violation of their 4th Amendment rights. The judge wrote that innocent students could be “open to an intrusive bodily search” even though most of them have given school officials no reason whatsoever to suspect they use drugs at school.”
Justice O'Connor concluded that it would be “far more reasonable” to restrict drug testing to students who caused disciplinary problems at the school. Significance Dissent The Acton case is a prime example of the ongoing controversy in a free society about how to balance the community's legitimate needs for order and safety against the individual's constitutional rights to liberty. The court developed with a finding that Vernonia's student athlete drug testing policy did not violate Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure. Shannon Montagno The case could be Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint
-The judge kind of agreed with both
-Restraint encourages judges to limit their own power and that they should hesitate to strike down laws unless they are obviously unconstitutional
-Activism rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law
But I would have to say that Judicial Restraint is what this case falls under because there were not any laws created because of this, but the judge was reinforcing laws and rights that have already been made.
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