by: Mari-Ela David
HONOLULU (KHNL) - There's a legal battle brewing over a plan to test public school teachers for drugs. Teachers voted for the policy in May. Some now want to fight the plan, saying Governor Lingle's Administration forced teachers to approve it.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association is in the middle of designing the policy. On behalf of teachers, The American Civil Liberties Union wants to stop the plan before random drug tests take effect next school year.
"Random drug testing gets an 'F' for several reasons. One, it violates the rights of public school employees. It is ineffective, it diverts scarce resources away from much-needed school services, and sends a shameful civics lesson to our students that government can force you to throw away your right in exchange for a living wage" says Vanessa Chong with the ACLU.
Chong says teachers felt forced to approve the policy. During contract negotiations, HSTA says the state offered teachers a raise under one condition: teachers must say yes to random drug tests.
"The provision was put on the table at the last minute and it was tied to salary, and it was inseparable," says Roger Takabayashi, HSTA Board President.
"That should not be acceptable. The constitution does not allow a price tag to be attached to a fundamental right," says Chong.
Supporters say school safety is at stake. Within the last year, police arrested four teachers for drugs: Lee Anzai, Lisa Luhrsen, Benjamin Ayson and Bronwyn Kugle.
"We have always supported drug-free schools but random drug testing was really not the way to go," says Takabayashi.
"It makes no sense at all to subject thousands of law-abiding public school employees to a dragnet random drug testing scheme," says Chong.
The ACLU will hold several meetings to build a case, and gather public school employees to participate in a lawsuit against the state.