The "special needs" doctrine and the erosion of Fourth Amendment rights in the public school system
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The Fourth Amendment prior to 1985 had never been applied to educational institutions. In New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985), the student search in question was founded on the idea of individualized suspicion. Between the years of 1989-2002, the High Court heard five cases dealing with searches and seizures, specifically about the question of drug testing. Using precedent established in T.L.O. (1985), the Supreme Court assumed a position that a “special need” existed in various industries, including the school system. These “special needs” have eroded our Fourth Amendment freedoms against unnecessary searches and seizures. Based upon the current interpretation of the Fourth Amendment in a school setting, any student who participates in any extracurricular activity may be drug-tested (Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie City v. Earls, 2002). The Supreme Court has effectively forced students to submit to a drug test, or not participate in extracurricular activities. Currently, the courts weigh the governmental interest against an individual’s privacy concerns to determine if a search is justified. The 2002 ruling in Earls has allowed the courts and the government to further reduce Fourth Amendment protections by claiming that either a “special need” exists or an increased governmental concern is present.