Judge Halts Controversial Drug Testing Policy

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Both sides agree the case is far from over.

Story by Gil McClanahan
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Charleston -- A Federal Judge blocks enforcement of the new Random Drug Testing policy of the Kanawha County School Board, issuing a preliminary injunction on the policy that would have taken effect January 1st.

"Everybody wants to proceed with caution because of the serious nature of this issue. We're not surprised by it," says Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring.

"It's an insult to our profession. We have fought this battle all along on the grounds that it is unconstitutional against 4th amendment right," says Fred Albert, a Kanawha County teacher and President of the American Federation of Teachers-Kanawha.

The state's top two teacher's unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Education Association, teamed up to fight the policy. Both point out the board already has a policy to test those who are under suspicion of drug use. However, the school board contends teachers with students have "Safety Sensitive" positions and should be randomly tested. They also cite 8 positive drug tests this year.

"Both organizations are very supportive of every opportunity on just cause to have drug testing and those types of things," says Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association. "One in 5,000 is a problem if it's your child isn't it? That's the problem," says Kanawha County School Board Member Pete Thaw.

Despite today's outcome, this is expected to be just the beginning of what could be a long legal battle.

"I think this is important enough that we have to fight it as long as the board fights us," says Judy Hale, President of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.

Doctor Duerring adds that the 8 positive drug tests this year were highly confidential. Most didn't know about it because of how it was handled. Both unions say there is not a drug problem among Kanawha County teachers, and money spent fighting the policy could be better spent on students.

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