Mainland ruling could impact Hawaii's random drug testing program - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mainland ruling could impact Hawaii's random drug testing program

Roger Takabayashi Roger Takabayashi
Dan Gluck Dan Gluck

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A court ruling on the mainland could have a direct impact on the random drug testing program for the Hawaii Department of Education.  A West Virginia federal judge ruled in favor of public school teachers' groups.

It's been a controversial topic since it was proposed more than a year ago: random drug testing for Hawaii's public school teachers.  The state made it a mandatory part of the teachers' contract; it passed but not without resistance.

West Virginia tackled the same issue and a federal judge ruled Thursday that it would likely "violate teachers' constitutional rights."

"I'm pleased with the ruling because it shows the complexities of these constitutional issues that our teachers have brought up," said Roger Takabayashi, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

So could that ruling have an impact on Hawaii's public schools?   Some in the legal community believe those privacy and constitutional issues apply in Hawaii as well.

Dan Gluck is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.  He says the West Virginia case could have local significance.

"It's the most comprehensive ruling we've had to date on random drug testing proposal for teachers," said Gluck. "So the courts here would give that serious consideration in any ruling."

The West Virginia ruling says the Kanawha County Board of Education presented "no evidence that the unspecified danger that teachers and other employees pose to students is one that is inherent in or permeates their day-to-day job performance."

It went on to add, "a train, nuclear reactor, or firearm in the hands of someone on drugs presents an actual concrete risk to numerous people; the same cannot be said for a teacher wielding a history textbook."

"So we're very, very concerned about government overreaching in areas it has no business invading people's privacy," said Gluck.

As a compromise, the Hawaii State Teachers Association says it presented a "reasonable suspicion" drug testing program to the state.

"So any teacher deemed incapacitated or under the influence can be tested but it was turned down by the administration," said Takabayashi.

He added the state wanted both a "reasonable suspicion" program and a random testing program.

As the Department of Education faces a 20 percent budget cut, teachers hope everything is done to preserve the learning environment.

"Keep the school intact," said Takabayashi. "Keep school personnel intact because they are the ones in the front line service providers to children."

We called both the Department of Education and the state Attorney General's office, but neither of them issued a statement nor was available to be interviewed.

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