Teacher Drug Tests: Waste Of Time

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 09, 2008
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I’m a terrible procrastinator, particularly when it comes to doing things that a) bore me, b) constitute a meaningless exercise, or c) insult me. The latter two, by the way, often do both at the same time.

Rather than do them I hope that, if I ignore them, they’ll just go away.

Too often, however, the boring, the meaningless and the insulting have staying power beyond belief. Thus it is with the provision in the 2007 contract between the Hawaii State Teachers’ Association and the state in which teachers agreed to random drug-testing.

You’ll remember, no doubt, that a year ago 60 percent of Hawaii’s teachers, starved for a raise, voted to ratify a contract with the state that included a provision for random drug testing of teachers.

Bribing the teachers to agree with random drug testing was a piece of blatant political pandering and fear-mongering on the state’s part. It was silly at best - thuggish at worst. It seemed so distasteful to me, so insulting to Hawaii’s teachers, that I blotted it from my memory.

Well, it’s back. Last week, the state’s chief negotiator, Marie Laderta - after a meeting with Gov. Linda Lingle - reminded me with the following statement: “We fully expect the Hawaii State Teachers’ Association will live up to the agreement between HSTA and the State of Hawaii Board of Education which was signed in good faith on June 25, 2007.

“The agreement included ‘reasonable suspicion and random drug and alcohol testing procedures applicable to all Bargaining Unit 5 employees that are intended to keep the workplace free from the hazards of alcohol and controlled substances’and ‘implement such plan no later than June 30, 2008.’

“Despite consistent verbal assurances by Department of Education that random drug and alcohol testing would move forward as agreed, we now find out at the end of business on the deadline date of June 30, 2008, implementation has not occurred.”

Then this ominous final warning from chief negotiator Laderta: “Accordingly, we are prepared to immediately seek all appropriate remedies at our disposal.”

Our good governor went beyond ominous; she accused the leadership of the Board of Education of seeking to renegotiate the contract’s random drug testing clause. She was quoted as saying: “They came in at the 11th hour after everything had been agreed upon ... and said we want to change the whole scheme here. It was just not right. What they wanted to do really was just avoid random drug testing.”

Wouldn’t you? The Board of Education, the administrators in the Department of Education and the 13,500 DOE employees in our public schools have important, expensive work to do: like teaching the children readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic - in preparation for the state’s tests and the fed’s many, many (often punitive) tests.

And those are the tests that count. Not the ones made up by the press and politicians looking for news and political points.

So how would you like to spend your weekend reading 135 three-page essays, walk into the school office on Monday morning and find yourself confronted by the vice principal with instructions for you to report for drug testing in 30 minutes at ... wherever?

Well more than a year ago, six of Hawaii’s 13,500 DOE employees - within a fairly short period of time - were found guilty of using and selling drugs. Six out of 13,500. There have been no reports of drug use or dealing by teachers since, nor - in my memory - were there any before. But that publicity about a smattering of drug-using teachers resulted in the state’s shoving random drug-testing into the teachers’ contract - call it the “no pee, no pay” provision. Random drug-testing is meaningless, insulting and expensive - more than $520,000 expensive. The members of the BOE don’t want to pay for it; they’ve got real work to do with their money. The governor doesn’t want to pay for it either.

Whattaya say we just ignore it and let it go away? As it should.

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