Chicago School Drug Testing Program Accused Of Discrimination

By McCarton Ackerman 01/11/16

Were two students expelled based on a false positive test?

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A group of Chicago parents have filed a lawsuit against a local Catholic high school for their student drug testing program, alleging that it’s discriminatory towards African-American students.

Marian Catholic High School in Chicago has been drug testing students since 2008, but the parents claim students have never been given an opportunity to appeal positive results. Their lawsuits alleges that four students tested positive for cocaine during the school’s random drug testing, but independent testing showed that the results were false positives. Two of the students have already been expelled, while the other two are actively trying to avoid the same fate.

“They’re devastated. They’re embarrassed [that] some of their classmates are learning about this,” said attorney Mary Grieb. “Part of the concern in filing the lawsuit is how it may affect them going forward with applying to colleges, applying to or transferring to other high schools.” Grieb noted that the four students participated in varsity sports and choir, among other extracurricular activities and were currently going on college tours.

Marian Catholic High School declined to comment on the lawsuit in a statement, but vaguely referenced their drug testing by noting they are “committed to providing all of our students with a safe, optimum learning environment. To achieve this environment, it must be free of illicit substances.”

But many parents wonder why individual schools and some school district are spending upwards of $25,000 per year on testing, despite yielding few positive results and almost no evidence to show these programs are effective. The three public high schools in Edmond, Okla., drug tested 750 high school students in 2013 and yielded only eight positive results. In fact, a 2014 longitudinal study published in the Journal of Study on Alcohol and Drugs showed that positive school climates and open dialogues were more effective in keeping students from using drugs than random testing.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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