The principal at Grant High wants students to take Breathalyzer tests before school dances, including prom. DUII checkpoints are illegal in Oregon, how is this different? And not that I’m advocating underage drinking, but what should the teenagers know about their rights in this situation?
—Not Your Mom
“The federal Constitution gives students stunningly few rights,” observes Portland lawyer Greg Kafoury. Freedom-loving, beer-swilling teens can debate the ultimate fairness of Grant’s proposed policy, but from a legal standpoint, they’re probably hosed.
This is due in no small part to a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case, Vernonia v. Acton, that began right here in Oregon. The ruling, which upheld Vernonia High’s right to drug test student athletes, said that school administrators’ need to “maintain order” (jawohl!) trumped any expectation of privacy students might have.
It’s true that Oregon’s Supreme Court has held (Oregon v. Boyanovsky, for any jurisprudence fetishists who might be attempting to rub one out over this column) that random traffic stops for sobriety testing were unconstitutional, but that probably won’t get your sozzled ass into the sock hop. This gets technical, but stay with me:
Boyanovsky held that “individualized suspicion” was required for stops that were intended to result in criminal prosecution. However, it specifically left the door open for blanket searches for other reasons. This means you can’t stop every car looking for someone to bust.
If I were a lawyer for the state, I’d waste no time in walking through that door with an armload of apple juice and John Tesh records to ruin your party.
As Kafoury wryly noted, “Why they want drunk kids to get back in their cars and drive home is beyond me.” But as it stands, students have two options: 1) drink at home, weeping silently in the bathroom, like Mom, or 2) learn to enjoy school dances while baked out of your gourd on primo shit.