Parents sue Marian Catholic HS for discrimination

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- A group of parents have filed a lawsuit against Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., claiming the school's drug testing program discriminates against African American students.

The lawsuit concerns four African American students whom were expelled after testing positive for cocaine use. Attorneys insist the tests were flawed and say all four students tested negative when tested by an independent lab.

"All the students were really model students at the school, members of the football team and basketball team, choir, go on college tours," said attorney Mary Grieb.

Named only by their initials, the two girls and two boys are minors between 15 and 17 years old, all of whom are athletes. Attorneys say the hair follicle testing used by the lab the school employs often comes back with false positive results in people with coarse, dark hair, which makes the test racially biased against African Americans.

"Other similarly-situated white students have been treated differently," said attorney Brendan Shiller. "Who have had an opportunity to do different types of testing and prove that these were false positives, and none of the black students, that we are aware of, have had that opportunity.

The school subjects all students to mandatory drug tests, but the attorneys filing the lawsuit said the program in itself is discriminatory and are calling on the school to end it and institute a way that students who have tested positive can prove their innocence with independent testing.

Present, but not speaking, at Tuesday's press conference were the parents, who attorneys say are most concerned about how the school's accusations will affect their children's futures.

"They're devastated," said Grieb. "They're embarrassed, some of their classmates are learning about this, and our concern, and part of the concern in filing the lawsuit is how it will affect them going forward with applying to colleges or transferring to other high schools."

The school has not responded to requests for comment. The Chicago Archdiocese said that while it can't comment on ongoing litigation, decisions on mandatory drug testing are up to the local leadership of each school and not the Archdiocese.
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