Group readies drug test lawsuit
The ACLU of Hawaii intends to file suit on behalf of teachers
A civil rights group says it has been contacted by more than 200 teachers who are interested in being part of a federal lawsuit challenging a new policy that calls for random drug tests for public school teachers.
Carlie Ware, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, said the organization is interviewing potential plaintiffs and aims to file the lawsuit by January.
"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," Ware said.
The ACLU of Hawaii says the policy is unconstitutional, and had threatened legal action in a letter to Gov. Linda Lingle last month, asking her to scrap the policy by yesterday or face a lawsuit.
Lingle said she is confident the policy will be upheld.
"It was voted for by a majority of the teachers," Lingle said yesterday. "We feel it's important for student safety and for teacher and staff safety as well."
The policy was added as a non-negotiable item in a contract ratified last spring by the 13,000-member Hawaii State Teachers Association. In May, 61.3 percent of more than 8,000 union members approved the contract, which also provided 4 percent raises in the current and next school years.
Attorney General Mark Bennett has said the ratification makes any legal challenge moot. The ACLU argues that teachers' constitutional right to privacy cannot be negotiated into a contract.
Librarians, counselors and curriculum coordinators also would be covered by the random drug testing program, which is set to begin June 30. Bus drivers, some physical therapists and auto mechanics instructors already are subject to drug testing.
The ACLU says it does not oppose a portion of the policy that calls for reasonable-suspicion drug testing.