Parents file suit against drug testing

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2002

CONWAY, Ark. - Four parents filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of their children to stop random drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities.

"I think the students are not property and you have to treat them as human beings," said plaintiff Bruce Plopper, on Monday.

The suit was filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court over the drug policy adopted by the Conway School District.

The school board voted 4-3 to begin random drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities in grades seven through 12.

Conway Superintendent James Simmons said he had turned the matter over to Bill Brazil, the school district's attorney.

"He'll tell us what we need to do," Simmons said, adding he was surprised the parents filed the lawsuit.

"We'll just go right on until somebody tells us not to," Simmons said. No students have been tested, yet. Principals had to turn in the names of all students involved in extracurricular activities on Monday.

Other parents listed as plaintiffs are Michael D. Conine, and Henry A. and Maureen L. Zimmerebner. The lawsuit was filed by Conway attorney Lynn Plemmons.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it legal to randomly test students in extracurricular activities, "the Arkansas Constitution allows more protection under search and seizure," Plopper said.

"For the various reasons listed in our petition, we believe the policy violates the Arkansas Constitution, Arkansas common law and the spirit of statutory law in general. We also believe the policy violates the Equal Protec-tion Clause of the U.S. Constitu-tion," Plopper said in a statement issued Monday.

"The step we have taken today is a natural move to protect our children's rights."

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction on the drug testing, because they maintain it violates students' common law right to privacy against intrusion and restricts student freedom in a way that "contradicts the spirit of a parallel Arkansas statute concerning student freedom."

It also contends that "the student drug-testing policy is impermissibly vague."

The lawsuit states that drug-testing students in elective, for-credit classes such as band, choir, newspaper, orchestra, etc., while not testing students in classes such as advanced placement English, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Consti-tution's 14th Amendment.

The plaintiffs maintain that students "volunteer" for extracurricular activities the same way they "volunteer" to take un-required advanced placement classes.

Dr. Terry Fiddler, president of the Conway school board, said, "The main point is, if these were questions prior to this, why were they not brought up before?"

Fiddler voted against the drug policy in August, but now that it's a policy, "it's backed by all the board members," he maintained.

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