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Supreme Court Says It Will Hear Drug-Test Cases

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WASHINGTON--The U.S. Supreme Court, broadening its inquiry into employee drug-testing policies, agreed last week to hear a case that involves the Transportation Department's rules for railroad workers.

The Justices said they would hear arguments in the railroad case next fall in tandem with arguments in National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab (Case No. 86-1879), a suit involving a drug-test requirement for Treasury Department employees. The Court had previously announced that it would hear the latter case during its 1988-89 term.

A decision in the cases could affect school-district policies regarding the testing of teachers, bus drivers, and other employees.

The railroad case, Burnley v. Railway Labor Executives' Association (No. 87-1555), began in 1985 when the union filed suit to block the implementation of rules that require workers involved in accidents to submit to submit to urine or blood testing. A federal district judge upheld the requirement, but a federal appellate court ruled last February that it violated workers' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The appellate court that heard the N.T.E.U. case had upheld the constitutionality of the Treasury Department's drug-test rule.

In other action, the Court last week declined to review:

  • Elmendorf v. Shaler Area School District (No. 87-1714), in which Pennsylvania's high court ruled last July that a taxpayer had no right to withhold a portion of his property taxes from the district to protest the teaching of evolution.
  • Roque v. Kercado-Melendez (No. 87-173), in which a federal appeals court last September ordered the reinstatement of a school superintendent in Puerto Rico. The court ruled that the commonwealth's secretary of education, a member of the Popular Democratic Party, dismissed the superintendent, who belongs to a rival party, for political reasons. --TM

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