Calif., Fla. Appeals Rulings Affirm NASW Amicus Briefs

A California appeals court last month agreed with NASW in upholding a lower court’s preliminary injunction stopping the Shasta Union High School District from conducting random drug tests on students. The case is Brown v. Shasta Union High School District.

Prior to 2008, the district tested student athletes for drugs only at random. That year, the district expanded the drug testing program to all students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities, such as band or choir.

Students sued the district, alleging that the random drug testing program violated their rights to privacy, equal protection and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — all accorded by the state constitution.

A trial court, believing the students likely would prevail, issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the district from conducting random drug tests on students. The district appealed the injunction.

“As shown by the competing expert declarations submitted and the briefs submitted by amici, the effectiveness of random drug testing to deter drug use is subject to sharp dispute,” the appeals court said in its ruling affirming the preliminary injunction.

In its brief filed with the appeals court, NASW said, “Mandatory suspicionless drug testing policies like the one crafted by the District ... create unwarranted obstacles to student participation in school-related activities and may themselves pose risks to student health and well-being. Indeed, research has failed to demonstrate that random, suspicionless drug testing of high school students prevents or reduces student alcohol or drug use.”

The brief continued: “On the other hand, research has consistently shown that student involvement in school-related activities is highly beneficial to healthy adolescent development and constitutes an important ‘protective factor’ for youth who are at particular risk of substance abuse.”

The brief was joined by the California Teachers Association, California district of the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Society of Addiction Medicine, California Public Health Association-North, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the Center for Gender and Justice.

The case now goes back to the trial court for further proceedings.

In other news, a Florida appeals court ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex couples adopting violates the state constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law. NASW had filed an amicus brief with the court asserting as much. The case is In re Matter of Adoption of X.X.G. and N.R.G.

“Given a total ban on adoption by homosexual persons, one might expect that this reflected a legislative judgment that homosexual persons are, as a group, unfit to be parents,” the court said in its judgment. “No one in this case has made, or even hinted at, any such argument. To the contrary, the parties agree ‘that gay people and heterosexuals make equally good parents.’”

In its amicus brief, NASW said, “Rather than protecting children ... Florida’s ban does just the opposite — it profoundly harms them by denying them a permanent adoptive family.”

At NASW News deadline, it remained to be seen whether the state would appeal the decision. In the meantime, Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist said the state would immediately stop enforcing the ban.

The brief was joined by the Center for Adoption Policy, Child Welfare League of America, American Academy of Pediatrics Florida Chapter, Foster Care Alumni of America, Foster Children’s Project of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, National Center for Youth Law and North American Council on Adoptable Children.