Symbolic Messages and the Constitution: Random Drug-testing of Public School Students, Vernonia V. Acton (1995) and the Fourth Amendment


Random drug-testing policies have been implemented in America's public schools. In essence, random drug-tests operate as a search of a particular group of students. This search is conducted in the absence of individualized suspicion of drug use. Moreover, random drug-testing policy in public schools has been challenged under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure. In Vernonia v. Acton (1995), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that random drug testing of student athletes was a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. This thesis will discuss Vernonia by first examining the implementation of random drugtesting in public schools, and then discussing the controversy that random drug-testing policy in public schools elicits under the Fourth Amendment. The thesis will then focus on the Court's reasoning in Vernonia. An analysis of the Court's reasoning reveals important implications of the decision. Random drug-testing of our nation 's public school students seemingly solves the temporary concerns of reducing drug abuse while ignoring the more concrete constitutional questions that these policies dismiss. The government's underlying interest in implementing random drug-testing policy is to make a symbolic statement about how it approaches drug abuse. The purpose of this thesis is to discuss the significant constitutional questions that random drug-testing policies elicit under the Fourth Amendment.


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Thesis Completion





Lanier, Drew N.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences;Drug testing -- Law and legislation -- United States;Students -- Drug testing -- United States







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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