Pubdate: Wed, 08 Aug 2007
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author:  Jordan Schrader
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


RALEIGH -- Arguments made Tuesday will help a judge decide if Graham 
County Schools may confront teachers and other employees with random 
drug tests. The N.C. Association of Educators sued the school 
district on behalf of a teacher, saying a policy that took effect 
last month violates state constitutional principles against 
discrimination and searches without evidence. The school district 
says the random drug testing policy, believed to be the state's 
first, is meant to keep students safe and promote an anti-drug 
message. "It's really a case without a whole lot of precedents in 
North Carolina," said Dean Shatley, the school system's attorney.

Superior Court Judge James Downs heard arguments in Asheville but did 
not rule. No testing will be done until the court makes a decision, 
Superintendent Rick Davis said.

In a legal brief presented Tuesday, attorneys suing the district 
wrote that random drug testing is unnecessary. It has been 17 years, 
they said, since officials have discovered a teacher using drugs 
under the old policy that allowed tests only upon suspicion.

Depositions of school officials revealed no evidence of drug use, the 
lawyers said in the brief, only unsupported rumors about three 
people: a high school teacher accused of smoking marijuana, an 
elementary school teacher rumored to have been drunk at a basketball 
game and a coach accused of using drugs and helping students pass 
drug tests. Unlike private employers who can test workers at any 
time, North Carolina allows random testing only for 
"safety-sensitive" jobs. "Because of the very nature of their jobs," 
school attorneys said in a brief, "school employees serve in a 
capacity in which safety must be an overruling concern." But their 
opponents said the district has gone too far in trying to rein in 
drug and alcohol use.

"The policy defines 'under the influence' in a manner that would 
subject an employee to mandatory rehabilitation, 24 months of 
unannounced testing, and even termination, for having even a trace 
amount of alcohol in their system," they said.
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