Teachers Resisting Hawaii’s Random Drug Tests

By Vaishali Honawar — December 22, 2008 1 min read
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Hawaii wants to randomly test any of its teachers for drugs under a contract signed with the state teachers’ union two years ago, but the union now says it will not play along.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association says the wording in the contract, which says the parties “agree to negotiate reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedures,” is meant to apply only to teachers who go on field trips, work with disabled children, are frequently absent or have criminal records.

The Associated Press quoted Mike McCartney, executive director for the Hawaii State Teachers Association, saying “this is a huge distraction from how to make our schools better.”

The union says it will agree to drug testing in cases where there’s a reason to suspect drug use.

The matter is now awaiting a ruling from the Hawaii Labor Relations Board. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has said it plans to sue the state because the program violates privacy rights, costs taxpayers too much money and does little to curb drug use.

One can’t help but wonder why the education department decided to put the drug-testing program in place at all. Apparently, the impetus for Gov. Linda Lingle came after six education department employees were arrested in unrelated drug cases over a six-month period. But the state has over 13,000 teachers, and one cannot help but see the point when the teachers’ union points out that the six arrested don’t represent a majority nor do they indicate a trend of rampant drug use among Hawaii teachers.

But here’s one good reason why the department of education could be mad at the teachers’ union recalcitrance: they’ve already handed out 11 percent pay raises to the teachers, which the teachers were given in exchange for agreeing to the drug tests.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.