Recent high school graduates say a federally funded OHSU study violated privacy

Statesman Journal

July 11, 2002


Two recent graduates of Dallas High School have filed a lawsuit against 14 Oregon school districts and Oregon Health & Science University.

Beth Wade and Amy Cordy said they felt violated for having to take drug tests as part of a federally funded OHSU study.

They are seeking $9 million in the class action suit that was filed June 28 in U.S. District Court in Portland.

In addition to being named as a defendant in the suit, OHSU is under a federal investigation into its drug study procedures.

In the lawsuit, Wade told lawyers she was forced to participate in the federally funded program as a condition of playing soccer.

She declined to comment Wednesday but told the Polk County Itemizer-Observer in an interview that she opposed the drug testing program.

"It violates my rights as a student athlete," she said.

Attorney Alan Milstein, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit does not negate the June 27 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandatory drug testing in schools is OK if a policy is in place.

"This case involves whether or not you can compel a student to take part in a human experiment," Milstein said Wednesday from his Pennsauken, N.J., office.

"The students were compelled to be human guinea pigs without their voluntary consent."

Martin Munguia, an OHSU spokesman, said the districts chosen for the drug testing portion of its study were schools that already had drug-testing policies in place.

He said the study was to determine whether students in athletics would be less likely to use drugs if they knew there was a possibility of being tested.

Two of the districts cited in the lawsuit, Silver Falls and Dallas, play different roles in the study.

Silver Falls Superintendent Craig Roessler said Silverton High School is part of the control group.

Control group members were not asked to take drug tests. Instead, they filled out anonymous questionnaires about drug testing, Munguia said.

Roessler said Silverton High School does not have a drug-testing policy.

"I would suspect eventually we will be dropped from the lawsuit because our students weren't drug tested," he said.

Dallas Superintendent Dave Novotney was not available for comment Wednesday, but a copy of the school's drug testing policy indicated it was adopted Sept. 16, 2000.

OHSU's research project, Student Athletic Testing Using Random Notification, started that year. The project is under federal investigation.

The Office for Human Research Protections, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is investigating the drug-testing study.

Spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy declined to say when the investigation began and did not know when it would be concluded.

Although she could not say specifically why OHSU's study was being investigated, she commented on its general procedure.

"In general, it's usually when there is someone who brings it to the attention of our office that there might be issues of irregularity," El-Hinnawy said.

If wrongdoing is found, El-Hinnawy said, there is a range of actions that can be taken.

In most cases, the institution conducting the study accepts the findings and works to correct the problems. In the most extreme cases, when an institution declines to accept the findings and correct the problems, all federally funded research projects at the institution are stopped until the problems are corrected.