HSTA fires back over drug testing
The teachers union claims that it is trying to formulate legal means of drug testing
Hawaii's public school teachers union is seeking the dismissal of a state complaint alleging that it breached a contract by failing to start a drug testing program on June 30.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association claims that Gov. Linda Lingle and her chief negotiator, Marie Laderta, lacked standing when they asked the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to order the union to set up random and reasonable-suspicion drug and alcohol tests of teachers as was required under a contract ratified in May 2007.
In a seven-page response to the complaint, the union said Wednesday the state agreed that the testing "would be handled exclusively" by the union and the Board of Education. It also charged that "suspicionless" random drug testing "is unconstitutional under the federal and state constitutions."
HSTA President Roger Takabayashi said yesterday the union has completed guidelines for reasonable-suspicion drug tests but that it has been working with the school board to develop legal random drug-testing procedures.
The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue the state if the random drug tests are carried out.
"We want to get it done. We just want to get it done right," Takabayashi said. "It's as simple as that."
The union has been considering limiting random drug tests to certain teachers, such as those who have been convicted of drunken driving or have a history of being late to, or absent from, class.
Laderta, who had not yet seen the union's response, said state attorneys have determined that randomly testing teachers for drugs would not violate their privacy rights. Laderta also said she believes Lingle and her administration have standing to complain to the labor board because they are an employer as well.
"We are one jurisdiction -- us, the Board of Education and the DOE (Department of Education)," she said. "We are the employers, all three of us."
The labor board will hold a hearing to decide whether the union is at fault, a board official has said. No date has been set.
The state added the drug program as a non-negotiable item to agree to a two-year, $120 million teacher contract approved last year by 61.3 percent of more than 8,000 union members. The contract awarded about 13,000 isle teachers two annual raises of 4 percent.
On top of questions over the legality of the planned testing, education officials and Lingle have also clashed over who should pay for the drug program.
In January the Board of Education voted to reject setting aside $400,000 to pay for annual tests of as many as 3,250 teachers, or one in four employees, saying they did not want to divert money from the classroom.
Lingle has argued that the Education Department has enough funds in its $2 billion-plus budget for the tests.