Judge OKs school drug testing

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

TULIA, Texas -- Drug testing of all students involved in extracurricular activities could be returning to Tulia after a legal challenge was tossed out of federal court this month.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson on Nov. 8 entered a final judgment tossing out a lawsuit filed in 1997 by the Gardner family challenging the drug-testing program.

Tulia Independent School District Superintendent Ken Miller said Tuesday that the ruling came as a welcome relief after many years of wrangling over drug testing.

"We are very happy," Miller said. "We expected that ruling, but it's good to see it in black and white. It's been a long time coming."

Robinson's ruling puts an end to a five-year odyssey that saw her first rule as unconstitutional TISD's policy of drug testing all students who participate in after-school programs. The case was appealed by the district, but that appeal was put on hold last year when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an Oklahoma case that was factually similar to the Tulia case.

The high court handed down a decision in June upholding the drug testing, which led the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate Robinson's ruling and remand the case back to her court.

Miller said the end of the case could clear the way for a return to the previous drug-testing policy.

"I'll have to visit with the board about that, but I'm sure they'll be interested in revisiting that prior policy that included all extracurricular students," Miller said.

TISD currently tests only those students involved in competitive sports.

Robinson's final ruling came as a blow to the Gardner family, who spent many years fighting the drug testing.

"I'm real disappointed," said Dan Gardner, father of two of the children on whose behalf the suit was filed. "I still think we was right under the law, and the courts thought we was right, too, until the Supreme Court stepped in."

Gardner said Robinson's ruling puts an end to his family's fight, but the battle over testing may not be over.

Alan Bean also is fighting against the policy on behalf of his son, Amos, with a suit in Robinson's court. The Bean case was not closed with the Gardner case because it contains claims that differ from the Gardner suit.

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