Despite overwhelming public support for drug testing teachers, the school system has its hands tied by the U.S. Constitution, which prevents putting such a system in place.
“I wish we could,” admitted Director of Schools Bobby Cox, who has been looking into the possibility of random drug testing for everyone in the school system. “But, the Fourth Amendment is the obstacle since courts have said, in the case of government employees, it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Public sentiment about random drug testing for teachers came to a head after the arrest of a Hickory Creek teacher recently after he allegedly bought drugs on campus. Two other Hickory Creek teachers have been suspended without pay for alleged drug involvement.
This comes after a high school teacher was cited for having drug paraphernalia in his car. He was caught during a surprise sweep.
An online poll taken by the Southern Standard showed 89 percent of respondents believe teachers should be subject to random drug screens. The poll was conducted on the newspaper’s website and is not scientific.
“We do require a pre-employment drug test and we also do a background check,” Cox noted, adding that while random drug tests are not permitted, the school system can make its employees undergo a drug test if there is reasonable suspicion of drug use. “If there’s an accident or something like that on school time, that’s an automatic test.”
Cox added things like suspected intoxication on duty, unexplained changes in demeanor, and incidents regarding safety are all reasons to ask a school employee to take a drug test.
Cox said Knox County was sued when it tried to enforce a random drug test on teachers there. “I don’t know of any county that has random drug tests for teachers due to legal issues,” Cox said.
However, Cox said that while there are legal hurdles, he feels educators should be required to submit themselves to random drug tests. Warren County students who participate in extracurricular activities at school are subject to such random screens.
“Personally, I think we should,” Cox said, noting he would be first in line to take a drug test. “Educators should be held to higher standards. As a teacher or school employee, you should have that accountability. It’s the right thing to do.”
Cox said he and the school system’s attorney will continue scrutinize the law to see if there is a loophole that would allow Warren County to implement random tests. However, Cox admitted that without a change in the Supreme Court’s legal opinion regarding the Fourth Amendment, it will be hard to require random testing without subjecting the county to a lawsuit.
Folks who go into teaching are not the kind who use drugs.~Michael Simpson, attorney for National Education Association, told the Washington Post.