Board Votes To Randomly Test Teachers For Drugs

by Ry Rivard
Charleston Daily Mail staff

Over objections that it could damage teacher moral and drag the county into a costly legal battle, the Kanawha County school board has voted to randomly test teachers for drugs.

In the 4-1 vote, the board looked to the corporate world and decided its pre-employment drug screenings and its suspicion-based testing for all employees was not enough.

Board member Bill Raglin said he didn’t understand why the education community “thinks they’re so different” from companies that currently test employees at random like his former employer, the Bayer plant in Institute.

The new policy adds teachers to a list of “safety-sensitive” positions, like bus drivers, that already faced random testing.

Robin Rector, the board’s lone nay vote, argued that the testing policy did not treat teachers as professionals, would damage their morale and could invite lawsuits by teacher organizations and civil rights groups.

“We’re really going to pay the price if we go forward with this,” she said. Rector also agreed with teacher representatives who argued that a policy to test all school employees, including teachers, based on “reasonable suspicion” could work if it was used by administrators.

“You have a policy in place now that you need to give a chance to work,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers affiliate in Kanawha County.

Albert also said that the expense of the program alone was too much. He asked the board, which spent other parts of the meeting discussing how strapped the system is for cash, how they would pay for the program.

Raglin said that if the board would budget accordingly the drug testing policy did not have to come at the expense of other programs.

The board could decide as soon as next month how it will proceed with the testing. The county still needs to find a contractor to administer the tests and decide what percentage of the teacher population it wants to test.

The random drug testing policy includes provisions to randomly test all members of the school board, an amendment suggested by board member Pete Thaw.