Monday, September 10, 2007

Some Civics Lesson…Drug Testing Teachers Too?

In a glaring violation of fundamental rights to personal privacy, Hawaii roles out a new plan to randomly drug test all teachers.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has ratified a new contract that will require its members to undergo random drug and alcohol testing--a requirement unusual for public school teachers--as the price for receiving a 4 percent salary increase each year over the next two years…...

Greg Knudsen, a spokesman for the 181,000-student statewide district, said that even though the department was already working with the union to develop a "reasonable suspicion" drug testing policy, that doesn't imply that officials think drug abuse is a widespread problem among teachers.

"The department didn't initiate it," he said about the random testing proposal.

Education Week May 9, 2007


If the Department of Education didn’t initiate the testing scheme, then who did? It was Hawaii governor Linda Lingle, who pressed for the testing as a part of the new contract the union was negotiating. Claiming there was a crisis of teacher drug abuse because six public education employees were arrested during the 2006-2007 school year, the Governor made it very clear that without a drug testing provision in the contract there would be no pay raise. It’s a disturbing, though classic, attempt to look ‘tough on drugs’.

…..Talks opened in June 2006, but there was no movement until April when Gov. Linda Lingle's administration delivered an offer of raises and the nonnegotiable mandate of random drug testing for teachers.

"The thing was it was put down as a take it or leave it. There was no negotiation on the governor's part. It was kind of shoved down our throats," Wurst said. "I was livid about that. To me it wasn't negotiation. It was really, really disappointing."

The Maui News, May 3, 2007


The pay raise will bring teachers up to just above $43,000 a year. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Hawaii, but it’s quite expensive to live there, and people shouldn’t have to sign away their most basic of constitutional rights to make a living wage. With tests around $45 a person, Hawaii is looking at almost $600,000 on what is basically a test for marijuana use. In essence the system is geared to test for teachers who used marijuana over summer vacation, but not who used meth over the weekend.

Some might argue that outside of the expense, the possible trampling of civil rights, and the political pandering, if the tests can help stop drug abuse than it’s worth it. Unfortunately they’ve never been proven to work. Let me state that again. THEY’VE NEVER BEEN PROVEN TO WORK!!! That’s right folks, even the National Academy of Sciences has said that, “Despite beliefs to the contrary, the preventative effects of drug-testing programs have never been adequately demonstrated.” (Under the Influence? Drugs and the American Work Force, 1994)

What can we do to stop this cheap political trick that threatens to undermine the rights of 13,000 teachers? The ACLU is currently recruiting teachers in Hawaii to join a legal challenge aimed at ending this unconstitutional practice. You can learn more at . Pass the word on to any teachers you know, or anyone who lives in Hawaii. Teachers can also call toll-free at (888) 9Join-Us or send an email to

I’m reminded of Ben Franklin’s quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Suspicionless drug testing takes away our liberties, and does absolutely nothing to improve the safety of Hawaiian students. Shame on you, Governor Lingle.

P.S. I’m really hoping that this is just some elaborate lesson designed to get students thinking about what protections the Constitution affords every American.

1 comment:

JT Barrie said...

The problem is always in false positives. When you test higher income people the harm done by a false positive is huge. When you test applicants for entry level minimum wage jobs it's just another excuse to not interview the glut of applicants that you don't have time to interview anyway. You aren't even required to notify those who don't get interviews.
Screening out users of "dangerous drugs" by drug testing is so bogus. It doesn't measure level of impairment. When it comes to drug addicts they neglect family and friends first; they don't screw up their source of income to pay for their addiction. Addicts make the best [short term at least - until they crash] employees. They cheerfully work extra hours and take on more work for more money. They don't have a life outside of drug abuse and work.