BATON ROUGE, LA - A federal court in Louisiana halted an unconstitutional teacher drug testing policy today. The policy, instituted by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, subjected any teacher who suffers an injury while on the job to a drug test without any suspicion of drug use. The American Civil Liberties Union and the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit last month seeking an immediate halt to the policy in order to protect teachers' constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches.
"This is the second federal court in two weeks to put the brakes on suspicionless drug testing of public school teachers," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU. "Public servants can breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that their constitutional rights remain firmly intact."
Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana added, "The Bill of Rights protects people from invasive government searches without suspicion - teachers are no exception."
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued the order after the parties reached agreement that the drug-testing policy would halt pending final resolution of the case. The order comes on the heels of an even more sweeping ruling in late-December by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. That court held that the constitutional right to privacy outweighed the government's interest in drug testing virtually all public school employees without cause.
The drug test of two-time East Baton Rouge Teacher of the Year Peggy Reno illustrates how the School Board's suspicionless drug-testing policy is implemented. Ms. Reno, a veteran and respected teacher, has never in her life used an illegal, and her school has never suspected otherwise.
A student punched Ms. Reno on September 24, 2008. Although there was no suspicion that she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Ms. Reno was forced by a School Board official to submit to an invasive drug test. Countless other teachers who have never used drugs - and who have never been suspected of using drugs - have been subjected to similar unconstitutional searches.
The East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, a local affiliate of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the national American Federation of Teachers that represents over 1,600 local members, opposes the drug testing of teachers absent suspicion.
Through a urine analysis, a drug test can reveal teachers' most sensitive medical information, such as whether they have certain diseases, whether they take prescription medication, and whether they are pregnant. Initial drug tests also have an unacceptably high rate of false positives, which can be triggered by a wide array common products and over-the-counter drugs, resulting in an indelible stigma cast on entirely innocent teachers.
Yigal Bander, an attorney with the firm Kleinpeter & Schwartzberg, LLC is co-counsel in the case and also represents the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers. The case, East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, is before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.