Suspicionless Drug Tests of Personnel in Schools After Parkland: MSD Strong…er Than the 4th Amendment?

By I. Jeffrey Pheterson

Does the safety of our children prevail over the privacy rights of their substitute teachers? The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that public schools may require urine tests for all applicants to substitute teaching positions—even without any unique reason or particular suspicion that would necessitate a drug test.

Judge Stanley Marcus, writing for the Eleventh Circuit panel, shares his official opinion on the matter succinctly and engagingly:

“A suspicionless search by the government is presumptively unconstitutional. So goes the basic hornbook law of the Fourth Amendment. The details are a bit more complex. Suspicionless searches are permissible in a narrow band of cases where they serve sufficiently powerful and unique public needs. The force of these needs depends heavily on the context in which the search takes place.

At issue today is a matter of first impression—whether a county school board may require all applicants for substitute teacher positions to submit to and pass a drug test as a condition of employment. That is, to put it more directly, whether the Palm Beach County School Board (the “School Board”) may, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, collect and search—by testing—the urine of all prospective substitute teachers. We think that the School Board has a sufficiently compelling interest in screening its prospective teachers to justify this invasion of the privacy rights of job applicants, and thus conclude that the School Board has not violated the constitutional mandate barring unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Friedenberg v. School Board of Palm Beach County, — F.3d —, 2018 WL 6694799 (11 Cir. December 20, 2018)

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