Controversy brews over random drug tests for athletes - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Controversy brews over random drug tests for athletes

There is a controversy brewing over random drug tests for Shelby County School athletes.

Shelby County Schools says it won't stop testing despite an opinion from the State Attorney General.

Some feel federal laws conflict with state laws when it comes to random drug testing of student athletes.

With that, the feds, the state and the school system are coming to a head in Shelby County.

The controversy began when the State Attorney General made an opinion that random drug testing of student athletes is unlawful.

"I don't see that we're going to change our position on testing student athletes," said Shelby County Superintendent Bobby Webb.

Webb disagrees with the opinion. "You hear so much about some professional athletes on steroids and that sort of thing. This is where we catch it and do something about it," adds Webb.

Tennessee Board of Education Chief Counsel, Rich Hagland says the Attorney General's opinion is based on the Tennessee State statute. "It says you cannot do any drug testing unless you have reasonable suspicion that a student is doing drugs," says Hagland.

But Webb points out the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that random drug testing does not violate the rights of student athletes in a voluntary, extra-curricular activity.

"We can't just say we're going to test all the kids on algebra today. We know you can't do that," says Webb.

But with the opinion now on paper, legal trouble could follow. "If a student, now, were to sue and say you're violating my Fourth Amendment rights and you're violating my rights under the Tennessee statute by doing this random drug testing, that kids going to have a pretty good case when he heads to court," said Hagland.

He suggests superintendents who want to continue random drug testing of athletes go to legislature in the spring to clean up any confusion in our law books.


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