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Marian Catholic sued for discrimination

MARIAN CATHOLIC HIGH School said they expelled four Black students because they failed drug tests , but attorneys and parents said those tests were flawed because hair samples from people of color skew test results.

High school under fire for expelling Black students after questionable drug tests

One plaintiff was an honor roll student and former captain of the basketball team. Another plaintiff was a junior who was active in the school choir and a member of several clubs.

They along with two other Black students at Marian Catholic High in Chicago Heights, have been kicked out of school. After their hard work, their futures are in jeopardy and their parents fuming.

Now a blistering racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the school, where officials expelled four Black students when they tested positive for cocaine use.

But the parent’s attorneys argue that the tests were flawed because they took hair samples from Black students whose coarse hair skew test results. They said the students repeatedly passed drug tests that were administered by several independent laboratories. Attorneys said the students were victims of racial discrimination who were subjected to culturally-biased drug tests at Marian, a private, traditionally-white school that has grown increasingly Black over the years. The school is located at 700 Ashland Avenue.

On Monday, December 14, the parents of the expelled students filed a lawsuit, seeking unspecified compensatory damages and an end to drug testing for all students, claiming the practice is unconstitutional. The 21-page complaint was filed in the Eastern division of the U.S. District Court of Ilinois. Attorney Mary Grieb from the firm of Shiller Preyar Law Offices is representing the plaintiffs.

The students in the suit are minors who are between 15 and 17 years old. They are identified by their initials in the suit, but the parents’s names are listed in the complaint.

The suit names Marian Catholic High School, the Archdiocese of Chicago and Omega Laboratories as defendants. The school’s guidance counselor, Joanna Drackert, has also been named as a defendant.

Because of the litigation, school officals are not commenting on the case. But attorneys for the plaintiffs on Monday, December 14, held a press conference at the West Side Justice Center. The students’ parents were there, but did not speak. Grieb, one of the group’s attorneys said the parents are concerned how the school’s decision will affect their children’s future.

“They’re devastated,” Grieb told the media. “They’re embarrassed and part of our concern in filing this lawsuit is how it will affect them going forward with applying to colleges or transferring to other high schools.”

Marian school officials administer mandatory drug tests to all of its students as part of its drug policy. According to the suit, students are screened for drugs at least one time. Samples of hair are drawn from the students as part of the drug tests.

Between the fall of 2014 and October 26, 2015, all four students tested positive for cocaine when the results returned from Omega Laboratories. One student was pulled out of class to be given the news.

All students denied taking the drug. Despite their objections, the students were expelled anyway.

In the lawsuit, attorneys said research and studies in Blacks indicate that hair testing for drugs is flawed. They say Blacks are more likely to test positive than whites, especially blondes.

Disputing the results, the parents of the expelled students paid to have their children tested by urine samples through independent companies at different facilities. Those laboratories include Quest Diagnostics and Franciscan Network. All of the tests drew negative results.

In the suit, students alleged Drackert, the school’s guidance counselor on November 23, was overheard by several classmates when she told two of the students the results of the test in the school’s hallway. As a result, one of the expelled students suffered “emotional distress, including shock, anxiety and humiliation.” Another student experienced similar problems after growing concerned about her educational career, according to the suit.

The suit also alleges that Drackert questioned one of the students about whether her parents used drugs at home. Attorney say Drackert went beyond her authority as a guidance counselor.

In addition to Marian Catholic High School, The Chicago Archdiocese is not commenting on the story because of the lawsuit.

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