Up in smoke: drug testing program for teachers challenged by ACLU

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Hawaii is getting set to initiate the nation's first random drug testing of teachers but, first, the American Civil Liberties Union, will have to get out of the way. Not surprisingly, the ACLU is suing Governor Linda Lingle's administration, arguing that drug testing is an unconstitutional violation of privacy rights. An attorney for the ACLU asserted: "The men and women who teach in the classrooms of Hawaii's public schools are demoralized by the governor's decision to spend hundreds of dollars to drug test one teacher while they barely have enough money to provide students with textbooks and school supplies."

What's being debated is the process the administration used to gain consensus for the policy. When the state's teacher contract was renewed last May, more than 60 percent of teachers voted to support drug testing. Perhaps not coincidentally, they were also voting to accept the state's offer of a rather sizeable pay increase, 8 percent over the next two years. Now, the state teacher union is insisting that it was forced to sign the contract in order to get the pay raise, and that the governor threatened not to sign an agreement that did not include the drug testing policy.

While the merits of drug testing are certainly debatable, the state does have reason to be concerned. In a span of six months, six school employees were arrested on such charges as dealing crystal methamphetamine, smoking marijuana before school (what followed must have been an enlightening class), and conspiring to distribute more than two pounds of cocaine and almost 1,000 tablets of Ecstasy.