Summary Legal Opinion on Drug Testing and Searches in Schools
This document is a summary of a legal opinion drafted by YOUTHLAW TINO
RANGATIRATANGA TAITAMARIKI on the subject of the legality of drug testing and
searching students in schools. For a more in-depth analysis of these issues, including an
examination of relevant statutory and case law from New Zealand and abroad, we urge you
to consult the full opinion, which is available from us upon request.
Drug testing and searches in schools is an issue that has attracted recent media attention,
and since 1997 many New Zealand schools have adopted drug search and testing policies.
However, these policies are of dubious legality, as they raise serious legal questions which
this summary will briefly address. In addition drug searches and testing of school students
remains unregulated by the Education Review Office and the Ministry of Education. Even
the New Zealand Police has not provided our office with information on the nature and
number of searches they undertook in schools in the last year.
I. PROCEDURES FOR DRUG TESTING
A. Available Tests and Methods
There are many methods available to test a student for drugs. These range from simple pat-
down body searches to requiring the student to produce a urine sample for chemical
analysis. Despite its intrusiveness, urinalysis remains by far the most frequently used
Urinalysis is particularly intrusive, as test subjects are frequently required to disrobe and
urinate under direct supervision by a monitor of the same sex. According to numerous
reports, the subjects nearly always find this experience humiliating and degrading.
B. Accuracy of the Test Results
Even when monitors follow the strictest collection procedures, there are questions
concerning the accuracy of the test results. This is so because many students try to get a
negative result by adding adulterants to the sample. This can be done simply by adding e