LAST TUESDAY, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit that accuses the Oakridge School District of violating the Fourth Amendment; the district regularly orders high school athletes to participate in mandatory drug testing. The issue was raised after 15-year-old Ginelle Weber, a sophomore volleyball player, refused to sign the consent form.

"Ginelle is an upstanding girl: She sits on student council, plays a number of sports, gets great grades, and has never had any problem with drugs," explained David Fidanque, Executive Director of Oregon's chapter of the ACLU.

But such glowing praise was not enough to hold off school administrators. After Weber refused to take part in testing, she was booted from the volleyball team. Throughout Oregon, it is currently legal to require mandatory drug testing of all high school student athletes. At any time, student athletes can be required to urinate in front of a medical technician.

"It's the most intrusive protocol that we've seen," says Fidanque. "It treats everyone as if they're guilty until proven innocent."

In 1991, the Oregon ACLU tried a similar case involving the Vernonia School District, a rural school district in Oregon's coastal logging community. In that case, a seventh grade football player refused to sign a consent form for drug testing. In response, the school district took away the teen's eligibility. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the ACLU and upheld the drug testing policy. The court said that students in schools have reduced privacy rights because school districts carry an increased responsibility to athletes.

"That's basically a meaningless excuse," explained Fidanque. "There is no reason student athletes should be searched any more than other students."

In light of the ACLU's failure at the federal level, they plan to keep their case at a state level, looking to the Oregon Bill of Rights rather to than the U.S. Constitution. Fidanque argues that Oregon law guarantees a greater degree of privacy than does the national Supreme Court.

Specifically, they cite a 1987 case concerning the right of the police to stop drivers at random in order to test them for drunk driving. While the Oregon Supreme Court found such searches unconstitutional under the state's bill of rights, federal court held such searches were fine in other states.

Fidanque argues that drug testing is a dangerous step towards comprehensive decimation of students' rights in general. "Unfortunately, other states have completely viscerated the Fourth Amendment in public schools. We're trying to prevent that from happening in Oregon." Fidanque fears that, though the law only applies to athletes, its scope could be further interpreted to apply to all students. "Already we've seen drug testing in other students around the state," he explained.

Fidanque cites the Brookings-Harbor district in Southern Oregon, which currently tests the high school choir participants. "We're trying to prevent the kind of searches that the people were subjected to by the British king--the kind of invasive searches that sparked the American Revolution," Fidanque explained.

Because of a study by Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), drug testing in schools throughout the state has seen a marked increase in the past school year. Unless the ACLU succeeds swiftly in their current suit, the study will continue for the next three years as high school administrators test the same group of students at random. These students will fill out questionnaires before and after the three year period to chart their rate of drug use. Martin Munguia, media coordiator for OHSU, explained that "the objective of the study is not to promote drug testing, but to actually see how effective it is when students know it is going to happen." There are currently 18 Oregon schools, including Oakridge, that are participating in the study.

"We really feel that this will assist us in preventing drug and alcohol use in schools today," argues Larry Horton, superintendent of Oakridge School District. "We have no other mechanism to tell us whether or not drug testing works." Horton says he knows of no other students who have objected to drug testing. He also cites the fact that he and 17 other teachers in the district undergo mandatory testing. "If it saves just one life it will be worth it," he explained.

Fidanque disregards such justifications. "The state always has good intentions for violating the Fourth Amendment," he countered. "There are plenty of searches that would be helpful to us, but if we do one then we have to do them all. That's why we have the Fourth Amendment clause, to insure that our rights are preserved despite anyone's reasoning not to."