Is Breathalyzing Students At Prom Constitutional?Posted: October 14, 2016
The Meriden Record Journal recently published a story about the Town of Southington’s decision to require all students attending dances and other major school functions to submit to a breathalyzer test as a condition of attendance. Is this legal/constitutional?
The short answer is almost certainly yes.
In a series of cases concerning the Fourth Amendment implications of drug testing of students in public schools, the United States Supreme Court has held that suspicionless drug testing of student athletes, as well as students engaged in other types of extra-curricular activities, is “reasonable” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In essence, the Supreme Court has said that given the pervasive problem of drugs in schools, it is reasonable for schools to test students for drugs as a condition of participating in certain activities, even if the school has no factual basis to believe that a particular student subject to testing is using drugs. If a student does not want to submit to drug testing, he/she does not have to participate in the activities.
As applied to the policy of administering a breathalyzer test to students who want to attend their high school prom, where drinking is often a problem, the Supreme Court’s drug testing cases strongly suggest the breathalyzer policy is legal. (Click here for a short paper discussing this specific issue.)
[For the record, I am generally opposed to suspicionless drug testing of students. I think the Fourth Amendment should be interpreted to require some degree of individualized suspicion. But a majority of the Supreme Court thinks otherwise.]