Attorney Nicholas Braswell practices criminal defense in Virginia, representing clients on cases ranging from drug charges to reckless driving.
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia and the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). They did this because the OSSE has policies that allow the random drug testing of preschool teachers in private schools. The Association, which is a nonprofit organization that consists of 75 regional private schools, believes that the OSSE’s drug testing policies are in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment and are violating the preschool teacher’s right to privacy.
The OSSE has directly acknowledged that they do in fact call for the random drug testing of preschool teachers at private schools. They maintain that this is an attempt to keep the children of D.C. safe and that they are only doing their jobs by enforcing city policies.
The city law is called the Child and Youth, Safety and Health Omnibus Amendment Act of 2004 (CYSHA). It requires private organizations licensed by the city government to mandate drug and alcohol testing for people who work in “safety-sensitive positions.” The OSSE clearly believes that preschool teachers fall under the category of people who work in “safety-sensitive positions.” However, many private school organizations and civil liberty groups say that the OSSE’s interpretation of the law is not as clear cut as they would like to think.
There was a decision in a similar case where the judge ruled that the OSSE’s drug testing procedures were problematic and needed to be revised. The attorneys representing the private schools made the argument in the suit that the OSSE has made no attempts to change its policies since the last decision.
The rule also exposes a few hypocritical stances taken by the city government. For instance, even though the use of marijuana is legal in the District, the city can still ban its employees from using the substance. The city also does not force public school teachers or teachers at charter schools to endure random drug testing like they do at private schools.
Civil liberty proponents also believe that the drug and alcohol testing mandate has no connection to actual on-the-job impairment and because of this fact it violates the employee’s rights without good cause. They also assert that the costs of running these programs puts private preschools at a disadvantage when they try and compete with public and charter schools.
It appears that the city has not gotten the message that the war on drugs is considered to be a huge failure. Normal drug testing for a teaching position would work just fine. If they were serious about the safety of their students, then they would have random drug testing at public and charter preschools as well. There is also no evidence that cannabis users make worse teachers than non-cannabis users. The city apparently seems to be applying age-old beliefs in a modern world and that is most certainly a recipe for disaster.
Borderstan contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author — our contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP — and do not necessarily reflect the views of Borderstan.