The ACLU and a Philadelphia law firm are suing two Pennsylvania school districts for maintaining random drug and alcohol testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities or who drive cars to school. The separate lawsuits were filed last week.
The US Supreme Court has held that the random drug testing of student athletes or students involved in extracurricular activities does not violate the US Constitution. But some state supreme courts, including Pennsylvania’s, have found protections against random drug testing of students in their state constitutions.
The lawsuits filed by the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm Dechert LLP charge that the school districts have maintained student drug testing policies that violate a 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision holding that random drug testing of students is unconstitutional unless the school districts can show that the group of students being tested had a high drug use rate. That case was Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District.
Delaware Valley, the defendant in the 2003 case, has never changed its policy, the complaint said. Instead, the district has “essentially ignored that ruling and continued to enforce the drug testing policy.” The district has never attempted “to compile data that would support or refute a need for the policy” even though the Supreme Court held that any such policy “must be born out of a true and documented need for random testing of the student population affected.”
The plaintiffs in the Delaware Valley lawsuit are Glenn and Kathy Kiederer and their two daughters, identified only by their initials. The Kiederers complain that when their daughters refused to sign drug testing consent forms, they were excluded from participating in athletics and extracurricular activities, ironically including joining the school’s Junior Students Against Drug Abuse.
“We are very frustrated that the Delaware Valley School District has ignored the State Supreme Court’s guidelines and has refused to change the drug testing policy to comply with the court opinion. We feel that the proper education for our children is to teach them to defend their constitutional rights, especially in the present times we are living in,” said the Kiederers.
The Panther Valley suit was also filed on behalf high school senior Jeremy Thomas and his ninth-grade sister, identified only by her initials. According to the complaint, Thomas, an Eagle Scout and Junior ROTC member, was thrown off the school golf team after refusing to sign a consent form. He was also barred from attending the senior prom. Thomas’s parents, Morgan and Donna, said in the lawsuit they refused to sign the consent form because they believe the drug testing program violates their son’s right to privacy.
“These policies teach young people to accept extreme invasions of their privacy when they’ve done nothing wrong,” said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Pennsylvania and one of the attorneys representing the students and their parents. “Random drug testing is also counterproductive, as studies have shown that extracurricular activities help students avoid drug use. Schools should not be putting up barriers to students’ participation in after-school activities,” she continued.
Neither school district has yet responded publicly to the lawsuits.
by Phillip Smith