(12/01/2008)
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia has filed a lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court that will pit teachers against the Kanawha school board, whose members decided last month to allow random drug tests for most of its employees.

The plaintiffs say the new Kanawha drug testing policy is overly broad, unconstitutional and exposes employees in the school system who are not "safety sensitive" to random drug screens.

A 1990 state Supreme Court ruling found that random drug tests in private industry applied only to those workers who presented a safety problem.

Bus drivers or chemical or nuclear power plant workers are safety sensitive because their mishap might cause serious injury or cost lives.

The Kanawha School Board has defined at least 45 types of employees as safety sensitive, including teachers, coaches, counselors, custodians, aides, principals, Superintendent Ron Duerring and other top county administrators, and plumbers, electricians and most maintenance workers.

The teacher's lawyers are arguing that the school board has not established that all the new safety sensitive employees "have jobs that are so safety sensitive that 'a single mistake ... can create an immediate threat of serious harm to students, to [the employee] or to fellow employees.'"

The plaintiffs include AFT-WV and its president, Judy Hale; the AFL-CIO; AFT-Kanawha County President Fred Albert, and school employees Cynthia Phillips and Greg Dodd.

Officials expect a costly legal battle that could drag on in the courts for years.

Adam Wolf, staff attorney for the Drug Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, has considered filing a second lawsuit. Wolf asked board members to reconsider their position at a meeting last week.

"Random teacher drug testing is ineffective, unconstitutional and nearly unprecedented," said Adam Wolf with the ACLU.


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