High School Volleyball Player Fights Urine Testing With Aid of Oregon ACLU

Affiliate: ACLU of Oregon
October 31, 2000 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Oregon
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Tuesday, October 31, 2000

EUGENE — A 15-year-old high school student and her parents are going to court today to challenge her removal from the Oakridge High School volleyball team for refusing to consent to random urinalysis drug testing, in case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.

Ginelle Weber, who is listed in the “Who’s Who of American Students,” was dropped from the team two weeks ago after she and her parents, Shannon and John Weber of Westfir, refused to sign consent forms for the drug testing program.

“I was taught in school that our Constitution guarantees that every American is presumed innocent by the government until they are proven guilty,” Ginelle Weber said. “But now my school tells me that I am presumed guilty unless I prove my innocence. That’s just not right.”

In the lawsuit filed today in Lane County Circuit Court on the Webers’ behalf, the ACLU is arguing that the random drug testing program violates the Oregon Bill of Rights protection against unreasonable searches.

The current Oakridge drug testing program was implemented after school officials agreed to participate in an Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) study of the effectiveness of random urine testing in deterring high school drug use. The OHSU study includes about 10 schools in Oregon, including the Creswell and McKenzie school districts in Lane County.

Shannon Weber said she objects to the Oakridge school district’s unilateral decision to violate her daughter’s privacy rights and make her and other students guinea pigs in the OHSU experiment.

“The nature of urine testing means they would be taking my daughter into a room with someone she doesn’t know to get their sample,” Shannon Weber said. “If the school district can force this on families, what’s next?”

The Weber family also opposes random drug testing because it treats all students as if they are guilty, even if there is no suspicion that an individual students has done anything wrong.

The Oregon ACLU has challenged random drug testing of student athletes in previous court cases, and took the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995. In that case, involving the Vernonia School District northwest of Portland, the court ruled that random testing of high school athletes does not violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

But Oregon ACLU Executive Director David Fidanque said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision didn’t settle the issue in Oregon.

“Oregon courts have said time and again that Oregonians have greater rights against government searches under the Oregon Bill of Rights than is required by the federal constitution,” Fidanque said. “Even the lawyer who represented the Vernonia School District has acknowledged that random drug testing of high school students is likely to be overturned by Oregon appellate courts.”

Earlier this month, the ACLU filed suit against the Lincoln County School District on behalf of families of two Toledo High School athletes who objected to random testing. That school district subsequently was removed from the OHSU study, reportedly because of the refusal of most students to return questionnaires about their attitudes and behavior toward alcohol and drug use.

Ginelle Weber was invited to join the volleyball team by the coach. She was already involved in several other sports, including basketball and track. She is president of the Venturing Crew, which is a group that promotes outdoor activities for anyone 14 years of age or older and is organized by the Boy Scouts.

Sports are not her only school involvement. She is a member of the Student Council and is the student representative to the Oakridge school board.

The Webers also have a son at Oakridge High School. He has played football and baseball, but has not played this fall because of an injury.

ACLU volunteer cooperating attorneys in the case are Thomas Christ and Todd Baran of Portland.

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