Pubdate: Wed, 15 Oct 2008
Source: Charleston Gazette (WV)
Copyright: 2008 Charleston Gazette
Note: Does not print out of town letters.
Author: Steven W. Shamblin
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


With this policy, the Kanawha County school board is declaring a
warrant against every employee in the county school system as having
probable cause for drug use.

In the heart of the state born out of a war fought for state and civil
rights, the Kanawha County Board of Education ironically seeks to strip its
employees of fundamental rights afforded in the West Virginia Constitution:

"The rights of the citizens to be secure in their houses, persons,
papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall
not be violated. No warrant shall issue except upon probable cause,
supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to
be searched, or the person or thing to be seized." (Article 3, section

The Bill of Rights also affords the same protection under the Fourth
Amendment. The purpose of these documents is to protect citizens from
government. Kanawha County Board of Education is a governmental agency.

The board hired a lawyer last year who advised that random drug
testing was new territory to be tried in the courts. Now, Hawaii is a
prime example of this.

In May 2007, Hawaii passed legislation to randomly drug test all of
Hawaii's teachers. Now, a year and half later, the testing has not
been implemented because of costs and litigation. The state board
refuses to pay for the initiative because it would take money away
from the classroom. The ACLU is representing teachers for rights
infringement. According to Education Week, part of the delay is in
working out classroom coverage while a teacher is being tested, which
takes almost three hours.

If Hawaii is running into such problems, why does the Kanawha County
Board of Education think it will not? Instead of waiting to see the
outcome of Hawaii's situation, the board is willing to move ahead. Why
are they not letting the taxpayers in Hawaii try this case? Are the
board's coffers so full that they can afford this venture? Does the
board think that Kanawha County employees will not ask for the
services of the ACLU like the Hawaii teachers?

This board cut field trips because of lack of funding. Where is the
drug-testing money going to come from? Hundreds of thousands of
dollars have been spent frivolously to accomplish the noneducational
tasks and agenda of the board. Yet the students, the children of the
Kanawha County constituents, suffer from the indulgences of this board.

Why is the board attempting not to fund the county library under the
pretext of needing more money? Funding the library -- and its branches
in the public schools -- would be a more effective use of money now
earmarked for drug testing and its associated court costs.

With this policy, the board is declaring a warrant against every
employee in the county as having probable cause. Every teacher and
prospective teacher in the United States will know that Kanawha County
schools is not the place to work. Not only is West Virginia ranked
48th in teacher pay, Kanawha County is ranked 18th in the state for
supplemental teacher pay. Kanawha County schools may have a shortage
of teachers to test.

What about school employees who have given their lives to the county
for the education of its youth? After 20 to 30 years, are they now
suspect? These professionals should be lauded for their service to
Kanawha children, not stripped of dignity by asking them to provide a
urine sample. Apparently the loyalty of employment flows only one way
in Kanawha County.

Law enforcement officers cannot randomly test everyone; they are
required to publicize all road checks. Why does the school board think
themselves more above the state constitution to perform searches
without cause than the state Department of Public Safety?

The current policy is more than adequate; it gives the board authority
to test "with cause."

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Shamblin is a teacher at George Washington High School and executive
board officer of AFT-Kanawha, the county's largest teachers union.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath