Sixth Grader Removed from Chorus and Orchestra Because of Refusal to Consent to Suspicionless Urine Testing
PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in state court today on behalf of a Solanco School District (Lancaster County) sixth grader and her parents to stop the school district from requiring students who participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics and academic competitions, to submit to suspicionless, random drug testing.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania believes the school's policy violates a 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling requiring schools to justify suspicionless drug testing programs with evidence of a widespread drug problem among students. This is the third lawsuit the ACLU of PA has filed in the past 13 months against school districts with unconstitutional drug testing policies.
"In the past year, judges have issued injunctions to stop similar policies in two other school districts. Unfortunately, the Solanco School District has not learned from other districts' mistakes," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
"Not only are these policies a violation of students' right to privacy, numerous studies have shown they do not reduce student drug use," he continued.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania and Dechert are representing sixth-grader M.M. and her parents, Mika and Christopher McDougall, of Peach Bottom, Pa. Because M.M. and her parents have refused to consent to the school's drug testing policy, M.M. was removed from orchestra and chorus at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year and is currently ineligible to join any school athletic or academic teams.
A top math student in her class, eleven-year-old M.M. was also recently asked to join her school's "MathCounts" academic competition team next year. But because she and her parents will not consent to a policy they feel is invasive and unconstitutional, she will be unable to participate.
"We're surprised and disappointed that Solanco School District is not only ignoring the law, but also the example of other school districts which have rejected the same policy because they understand that spying on students without suspicion is against the Constitution," said Mika and Christopher McDougall.
"These are young people who have done nothing wrong, not prisoners on parole. We've tried repeatedly to persuade the district to abide by the state Supreme Court's ruling, but it has refused. That's unfortunate, because the district's responsibility is to teach students to respect and understand the law, not sidestep it," the McDougalls added.
A similar drug testing policy was declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003 (Theodore v. Delaware Valley School) because the school could show additional evidence that the group of students undergoing testing had a high rate of drug use. In 2011, the Courts of Common Pleas of Carbon and Pike Counties granted preliminary injunctions against nearly identical drug testing policies under Theodore, finding that the policies were likely unconstitutional and prohibiting their enforcement.
According to the complaint, the Solanco School District has provided no evidence of a drug problem among its students to justify its policy.
Studies have repeatedly shown that random drug testing does not reduce student drug use. The largest national student study conducted by the U.S. government's own program, Monitoring the Future, found in 2002 that random, mandatory drug testing had no impact on students' rates of drug use. This study covered three years and included over 76,000 students nationwide in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades. These researchers confirmed these findings again in 2003.
The case is M.M. v. Solanco School District. M.M. and her parents are represented by Mary Catherine Roper, Chris Markos, and Witold Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Stephen McConnell, Kevin Flannery, Michael Salimbene, and Kenneth Holloway of Dechert LLP.
Information about the ACLU-PA's other cases against school districts with suspicionless drug testing polices, M.K. v. the Delaware Valley School District and M.T. v. Panther Valley School District, is available online: