PHILADELPHIA - Panther Valley High School (Carbon County) senior Jeremy Thomas will be attending his prom tonight after all. Late yesterday afternoon a judge issued a ruling prohibiting the Panther Valley School District from enforcing its unconstitutional policy requiring students to submit to random drug testing to participate in extracurricular activities, including school dances. Until yesterday, Thomas was barred from attending his senior prom because he and his parents refused to consent to random drug testing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on March 9, 2011, against PVSD on behalf of siblings M.T., a ninth grader, and Jeremy, who were not allowed to participate in after-school activities because of their refusal to consent to random, suspicionless urinalysis. An Eagle Scout and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) member, Jeremy was kicked off the golf team after refusing to sign the consent form.
"We are very excited. This ruling vindicates our belief that people are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around," said Morgan Thomas, Jeremy and M.T.'s father. He added that his son was getting his suit today in preparation for tonight's prom.
In his May 5 opinion granting the ACLU-PA's request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Steven Serfass of the Common Pleas Court of Carbon County found that "the district is seeking to force an unconstitutional choice on plaintiffs without sufficient justification for the policy." A 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District, requires schools to justify suspicionless drug testing programs with evidence of a widespread drug problem among the students being tested.
"Students shouldn't have to choose between their rights and full participation in school. We are very pleased the judge enforced the law of Pennsylvania and hope other school districts will take another look at their own policies," said Mary Catherine Roper, ACLU-PA senior staff attorney and one of the attorneys representing the Thomases.
The case is M.T. v. Panther Valley School District. The students and their parents are represented by Roper, Molly Tack-Hooper, and Witold Walczak of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Stephen McConnell, Kevin Flannery, Michael Salimbene, and Kenneth Holloway of Dechert LLP.
The ACLU-PA also filed a similar lawsuit against the Delaware Valley School District, M.K. v. the Delaware Valley School District, in March over its similar drug testing policy. That case is still pending.
- More about this case, including copies of the judges order, the complaint, and the school's policy.