September 17, 2013

Constitution-Day Memo Reminds ISDs that Students Are Protected by U.S. Constitution from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures

CONTACT: Tom Hargis, Director of Communications, 713.942-8146 x103 or 832.291.4776;

Houston – Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas delivered a memorandum to public-school superintendents that warned administrators about violating the U.S. Constitution through unwarranted drug tests and other suspicionless searches of students. The memo explains that students retain all constitutional rights on school grounds, including protections under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“We’re all concerned about drugs in our schools, but school administrators can’t simply ignore the Constitution,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “Some school districts propose new drug-testing policies with perfectly good intentions. The purpose of this letter is to remind them that those good intentions can’t get the best of our Constitution, which forbids unreasonable searches and intrusions on students’ privacy.”

The back-to-school memo, from Legal and Policy Director Rebecca L. Robertson, explains that the ACLU of Texas regularly receives complaints from students about suspicionless searches like drug tests in Texas schools. Robertson cites federal case law and appeals to superintendents to stay within that law.

“As a new school year begins, we urge you to respect students’ Fourth Amendment rights and to champion constitutional principles in your schools,” Robertson states in the letter’s opening; she closes with a reminder that the ACLU will be vigilant in its monitoring of school activities:  “Our students learn these constitutional values not only from textbooks but also from your example. We trust you will set a good one. We’ll be watching.”

Superintendents received the letter on the federal observance of Constitution Day, which recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. View the letter here.

In conjunction with Constitution Day, the ACLU also launched an interactive website to engage students as young as middle-schoolers in learning about the Constitution. See