CHARLESTON, WV - The American Civil Liberties Union applauds a federal court order today halting the Kanahwa County School Board's plan to randomly drug test nearly all public school employees. The ACLU, partnering with the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), filed a lawsuit along with the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia earlier this month challenging the constitutionality of the drug testing policy. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston granted the groups' request that the drug testing program be suspended pending a final ruling from the court.
In today's order, the court found that the teachers were likely to prevail in the lawsuit and that teachers would suffer irreparable harm if drug testing were allowed to continue. Noting that studies show that teachers are among the least likely employees to use drugs and that most courts have struck down programs that randomly drug tested teachers, the court stated that constitutional rights cannot be sacrificed for mere symbolic purposes.
"Today's order affirms the constitutional rights of our public servants," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU. "Random, suspicionless drug testing of teachers is unnecessary, ineffective and illegal. With today's order, we hope that the School Board will finally reconsider its doomed policy and save the taxpayers any further expense."
The ACLU and WVEA originally intervened in an existing case filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, seeking an injunction and a ruling declaring the plan unconstitutional. The School Board then removed the case to federal court, setting the stage for today's ruling.
This case is similar to the one pending against the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, in which the ACLU has sought a federal court order ceasing the suspicionless drug testing of teachers injured on the job. Recognizing that suspicionless drug testing is illegal and ineffective, the Lafourche Parish Council recently rejected a proposal to mandate drug and alcohol testing of everyone receiving public funds, including teachers, retirees, and those receiving disability payments.
"Courts continue to recognize that public servants are entitled to privacy and that random drug tests are a waste of taxpayer resources to no beneficial effect," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "We welcome this ruling from West Virginia, and we trust that Louisiana courts will follow suit."