Schools blowing off civil rights

Going to class drunk is not a good idea, and it is understandable that school officials don’t like to see this happen. But the way in which high school teachers want to make sure that students don’t show up under the influence of alcohol is teaching their students something else as well: Privacy doesn’t matter.

Schools nationwide are administering breathalyzer tests to ensure that students are sober while attending classes. According to The New York Times, schools across the nation routinely use breathalyzers to check on underage students at proms, pep rallies and other after-school events. At first, such uses were contested, but over time have become accepted.

It is difficult to see how this is permissible under the Fourth Amendment. It’s one thing to ask a rowdy student dancing the Macarena at a prom to pass the test, but to routinely have students submit to it would surely be an unreasonable search without probable cause.

On top of that, school officials often interpret a refusal to submit to the test as an admission of guilt and respond with suspensions. This undermines one of the most basic principals of our judicial system, the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty.

What makes this practice so problematic is that schools should teach about the Bill of Rights rather than glossing over the Constitution and asking students to submit to an invasion of privacy in the hallway afterward.