Jacob Sullum

This pronouncement (which came at a time when illegal drug use among high school students was declining) would seem to justify random urine testing of all students, whether or not they join the football team or drama club. When anti-drug hysteria is so widespread that the nation's highest court suggests the crusade for pure bodily fluids trumps the Constitution, you can start to see how someone like Kerry Wilson might conclude that it was reasonable to make an honor student with a clean disciplinary record disrobe based on a fellow eighth-grader's uncorroborated accusation that she had brought unauthorized Advil to school.

The drug policy at Wilson's school, which bans even over-the-counter medication without advance approval, exemplifies the "zero tolerance" zealotry that has been embraced by schools throughout the country. According to advocates of this approach, preventing drug abuse is so important that schools should rigidly enforce clear, simple rules without regard to a student's intent or the danger he poses.

Combine this mind-set with a greenish light from the Supreme Court, and you may see extreme measures like strip searches deployed against trivial offenses like ibuprofen possession. As Judge Hawkins notes, the Supreme Court's test for student searches "eschews any clear rules in favor of a highly abstract balancing standard that is meant to reflect nothing more than 'the dictates of reason and common sense.'" The problem with this standard, as Kerry Wilson showed, is that common sense is not as common as it should be.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
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