On September 9, 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, upheld Hunterdon Central High School's random drug policy for students in extra-curricular activities and those who park on campus. The ACLU-NJ had challenged this policy, on behalf of parents and students, as a violation of privacy and the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures in the New Jersey Constitution. The United States Supreme Court had previously upheld random drug testing policies - first for just student athletes (in a case called Vernonia) then for all students in extra-curricular activities (in a case called Earls). In Joye, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the ACLU-NJ's argument that the broader search and seizure protections in the State Constitution warranted a different result than under the Federal Constitution. Rather, the majority in Joye relied heavily on United States Supreme Court decisions. Like its federal counterpart, the State Supreme Court held that the school met the "special needs" exception to the search and seizure warrant requirement because of the need for schools to provide safe environments, the diminished expectation of privacy of students (especially when in extra-curricular activities), and the showing by this school that a significant portion of the student body had used drugs or alcohol (although admittedly it was no larger a percentage than the national average). The majority then noted the importance of Justice Breyer's statements, from his concurring opinion in the Earls decision, regarding conscientious objectors' ability to opt out of the random testing program by not participating in extra-curricular activities. The New Jersey Supreme Court therefore stated that a policy of random testing for all students, rather than limiting it to extra-curricular, "would eliminate the ability of a conscientious objector to opt out of the eligible pool . . . [T]hat option contributes to the program's reasonableness; its removal, therefore, would jeopardize the program's constitutionality." The court also stated that its decision is "not to be viewed as a green light for schools wishing to replicate Hunterdon Central's program." Each drug and alcohol testing program would be analyzed separately, and each school would have to "base their intended programs on a meticulously established record." The three dissenting justices in Joye held that government searches of individuals without any suspicion of wrongdoing by those individuals is unconstitutional and that students in extracurricular activities do not shed such constitutional protections. The justices warned: "The desire to wage war on drugs should not be permitted to coarsen our sensitivities to constitutional protections." This case was closed in 2003.


Ravinder Bhalla/Krovatin & Associates


New Jersey Supreme Court