Pubdate: Thu, 18 Jun 2009
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2009 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Jordan Schrader
Referenced: N.C. Court of Appeals opinion
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


School Board Won't Contest Court's Ruling

With the conclusion of a more than two-year legal fight, Graham County
educators won't face random tests for drugs and alcohol.

The county's school board decided not to ask the N.C. Supreme Court to
review a June 2 decision by the state Court of Appeals striking down
its drug-testing policy.

The court ruled random testing violated employees' rights under the
state constitution to be free from unreasonable searches.

School board attorney Dean Shatley, of Asheville, said the board made
its decision Tuesday after considering that "the cost of implementing
such a program would be a tremendous burden in these tough economic

Some members have joined the board since it approved random tests for
all employees in 2006. Voters replaced its chief backer, Mitch Colvard.

Shatley said the board also recognized it would be difficult to
reverse the three-judge panel's unanimous decision, especially coming
after courts in other states like West Virginia have drawn similar

The ruling delivered another blow to the idea advanced by Graham and a
handful of other districts around the country that educators are so
important to children's safety they can be subjected to the same
random tests courts have allowed for school bus drivers and some other
vehicle operators.

Privacy Rights

"It recognizes, as have many other courts, that teachers' privacy
rights must be respected, that teachers do not give up the right to be
free from suspicionless searches," Adam Wolf, a staff attorney for the
American Civil Liberties Union, said of the ruling.

Graham County Schools' policy never took effect, put on hold because
of the lawsuit by the N.C. Association of Educators on behalf of a
Robbinsville High School Spanish teacher.

The district will continue to test employees before they're hired and
based on suspicion of drug or alcohol use, Shatley wrote in an e-mail.
Random testing will continue for school bus drivers.

The board is disappointed in the ruling, he said.

"The safety of children should always be a top priority for any school
district," Shatley said, "and the safety of students was the reason
for the board's decision to originally implement the policy."
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