Chess clubs face drug tests

United States

CHESS club members and cheerleaders can be tested for drugs, following a Supreme Court ruling ruling last week.

America's highest court upheld a rural Oklahoma authority's move to extend random screening to all extra-curricular activities, not just for school athletes, already permitted by law.

Opponents sued the Pottawatomie County school authority for infringing students' privacy rights. Leading the challenge was former student Lindsay Earls, a self-described "goodie two-shoes", who said it was degrading to be asked to urinate in a cup, with two teachers listening to ensure she did not swap samples, before being allowed to sing in the school choir.

But Justice Clarence Thomas declared that privacy incursion was "not significant", unlike the the war against drugs. The judgment was only passed by a five to four margin, with opposing judges bitterly critical of it. Dissenting judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who backed testing for student athletes in 1995, mocked the ruling. She said after-school groups like the Future Farmers of America or school orchestras, were among the least likely to take drugs "not withstanding images of livestock run amok, and colliding tubas".

Graham Boyd, director of the drug-policy project at the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented Lindsay Earls, said the policy "equated students with prisoners". More than 50 per cent of America's 14 million high-school students take part in extra-curricular activities, which carry credit in university admissions. President Bush has campaigned for widening schools' drug-testing powers. But the cost of tests stops most state schools doing any testing.

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