This will be printed in this week’s Justice, but since they don’t yet have their new site online, I figured I might as well post it here. (Yeah, I know, I could put it in my essays page, and I will later, but this way it gets more exposure)

If the Supreme Court changes the rules, Brandeis must follow suit.
by Daniel Silverman

In 1995 the US Supreme Court ruled that public school students who take part in athletics may be randomly screened for drugs by the school district. The case centered on the town of Vernonia, Oregon, whose public high school was witness to what authorities called a “substantial drug problem,” a problem that athletes were allegedly at the center of.

Fast forward seven years, and move from the football field to the choir room — that is where we are today. It seems very likely after hearing arguments on March 19th that the Supreme Court will substantially broaden its previous ruling, allowing school districts to randomly screen any student who “voluntarily” takes part in any extracurricular activity, such as student government, band, theater, quiz bowl, or even the Future Homemakers of America.

Public schools must, “[try] to train and raise these young people to be responsible adults,” Justice Antonin Scalia was quoted as saying in the New York Times. Part of responsibility is understanding government and the limits thereof. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that any federally mandated drug tests violate a citizen’s fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches. Doesn’t that rule apply in this case? Not according to Scalia, who does not find the provision to hold when applied to minors, i.e. “non-citizens.”

“So long as you have a bunch of druggies who are orderly in class, the school can take no action. That’s what you want us to rule?” Scalia asked the ACLU attorney pointedly. The American system of justice is based on a notion of trust. That is why we do not live in a totalitarian police state, that is why we are given privacy. The government must trust us to know what is best for ourselves, and must only intervene when the danger is to the greater society. So my answer, Justice Scalia, is yes.

If the Supreme Court rules, as it is predicted to do, that any student who takes part in an extracurricular activity may be subjected to drug tests, then the Brandeis admissions policy must be changed. If a student chooses to fight this gross infringement of rights by refusing to take part in extracurricular activities, she should be given no lesser status in terms of admissions then a student who is president of five high school clubs.

Justice Kennedy posed to the ACLU lawyer a hypothetical question of whether a school district could have two schools, one a “druggie school” with no testing and another clean school where testing takes place. “No parent would send a child to [the druggie school],” he said, “except maybe your client,” referring to the high school senior, now a Dartmouth student, who brought the suit.

It is very nice and productive when the Supreme Court publicly disparages a teenager who tries to bring a constitutional issue to light. It shows just what our highest court thinks of young people, and it shows, perhaps, how low our country has sunk in terms of civil liberties.

It also shows clearly why Brandeis University, if we are to take back our mantle as advocate for social justice, must fight this turn of events, starting with our admissions policy. Sure a position seen by some as “pro-drugs” might be considered unpopular, but when have we ever let that stop us?

3 replies on “JustTalking”

  1. Sadly, the supreme court we have today is probably one of the worst we’ve ever had. Unfortunately, the supreme court wields a lot of power due to the dysfunctional nature of congress. My hope is George W. doesn’t get to put too many people on there or we’ll be screwed for years to come.

  2. No offense or anything, but your article doesn’t make sense. What does the Brandeis admissions policy say now? Why/How will it need to be changed? Are you saying that students should fill out a box that says they’ve had illegal drugs even if it means they aren’t allowed to do any extra-curricular activities and then still be admitted by the university on the same merits of someone who says they don’t do illegal drugs and will participate in activities? I don’t see the university doing this. One of the many things that makes Brandeis a good school is that its students are active in regards to social justice…why accept students who can’t become active in social justice just to prove that our admissions policy is for social justice. Does that make sense?

  3. Why not continue to consider extracurricular activities, but include those which are not organized as part of school and so don’t involve pee tests?

    Seems to me like starting a garage band ought to count for as much as being section leader of the school marching band. Putting up and regularly maintaining a website read by hundreds or thousands should be a match for writing for the school newspaper. Singing in a church choir is as good as singing in a school choir. And tutoring at a homeless shelter surely teaches a high school student more than being a member of an academic honor society.

    That would give the pee-shy Brandeis applicants an opportunity to compete without penalizing the pee-friendly.

    — Prentiss Riddle <a href="http://www.io.com/~riddle/">Aprendiz de todo</a>

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