A Loyalsock Township High School senior has won his right to participate in school activities once again.
Lycoming County Judge Richard A. Gray granted a preliminary injunction Wednesday against Loyalsock Township School District's drug testing policy that targets students involved with extracurricular activities and those who park their cars at school.
Brian Fagnano filed the request on behalf of his son, Brandon. A hearing was held March 27.
The Fagnanos were represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Mary Catherine Roper, of Philadelphia.
"We're, of course, really, really happy for Brandon," Roper said. "He gets to graduate with the recognition that he's earned."
Brandon was banned from participating in school service clubs, a scholastic scrimmage team and National Honor Society recognition because he refused to sign papers consenting to random drug testing. He also was removed as junior class president because of his refusal.
"We hope school districts start taking another look at their policies in light of the law," Roper added.
The judge's decision affects only Brandon. The district's drug testing policy remains in place unless challenged again.
She said the case is the third one the ACLU has taken on and won in Pennsylvania.
In his ruling, Gray noted that a precedent was set with Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District (2003), where the state Supreme Court said that a random drug testing program will "pass constitutional scrutiny only if the district makes some actual showing of the specific need for the policy and an explanation of its basis for believing that the policy would address that need."
"In this matter, the (Loyalsock Township) district has failed to show that there is a drug or alcohol problem within the district requiring a randomized drug testing policy, and that the policy that the district has chosen will address that problem," Gray wrote.
During testimony March 27, Dr. Charles Parekh, an expert witness on statistics, said Pennsylvania Youth Survey results for Loyalsock Township School District did not show any increase of drug use. Parekh also testified that students not covered by the policy are 4.7 times more likely to be involved in a drug or alcohol-related incident.
"In short, the targeted group is much less likely to have a significant drug issue than the untargeted students," Gray wrote.
Gray's ruling notes that, "the district superintendent's testimony that he had no information about a drug or alcohol problem regarding those students participating in extracurricular activities or those students driving to school, i.e. those students targeted by the drug testing policy. Additionally, a district school board member testified that, while formulating the policy, she did not remember seeing any information that stated randomized drug testing would decrease drug and alcohol use within the district."
"Based on this evidence, this court cannot conclude that the district can prove an actual need for the drug testing policy or an explanation of the basis for believing the policy would address the district's need," Gray wrote.
Gray added, "This case involves the fundamental right to privacy. In this matter, the district forced (Brandon Fagnano) to forego this right in order to participate in extracurricular activities and to park at school. When (he) refused to consent to the randomized drug testing policy, the district placed (him) in the position to choose between his constitutional rights and his participation in extracurricular activities.
"Although the participation in athletics and extracurricular activities is a privilege and not a right, this court cannot overlook the underlying value that participation in extracurricular activities provides to students.
"The district's superintendent testified that the policy was implemented against all extracurricular activities because participation in these activities is a privilege and not a right. However, enrollment in these extracurricular activities, in and of itself, does not justify the drug testing policy that has been implemented within the district. The district cannot target and make an example of this group of students because they are considered to be role models or leaders; the district must base the drug testing policy on an existing drug or alcohol problem among the targeted students."
In his ruling, Gray wrote that the district did make an attempt to counter drug and alcohol use.
Brian Fagnano issued a statement on behalf of his son.
"I appreciate that the judge looked at the facts and evidence and recognized the merit in the case," Brandon said.
"I'm happy and extremely pleased for Brandon," his father, Brian said. "Brandon researched this relentlessly for six weeks last spring and fully believed that his rights were being violated."
Phone calls seeking comment from the school district were not returned.