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Drug Testing News

School drug test measure said unneeded

By Charles E. Beggs, Associated Press Writer

SALEM - A bill authorizing school districts to require drug tests of teachers and other workers who have contact with children is unneeded and possibly unconstitutional, a lobbyist for the state's biggest teachers' union said Tuesday.

Many school districts already require pre-employment drug tests, and test further when there is a "reasonable suspicion" that an employee may be using illegal drugs, Laurie Wimmer Whelan of Oregon Education Association told the House Rules Committee.

Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Betsy Close, R-Albany, school districts could require employees to have drug tests during routine physical examinations.

Whelan said that provision runs afoul of the constitutional ban on testing "absent a compelling reason" or suspicions that an employee is drug-impaired.

Close said she wouldn't object to eliminating the physical exams provision: "I see this as very limited in scope."

Close said the intent of the bill is to put some standards into law and to encourage testing if school districts choose to do so. A few states have passed similar laws, including Florida and Georgia, she said.

The union also opposes provisions that would attempt to "superimpose penalties," including suspension or firing for failing or refusing tests, over the testing terms already in negotiated contracts, Whelan said.

The measure also would allow state agencies to require drug tests of employees who are in contact with children as part of their jobs, such as state child protective and other social services workers.

No state officials or union leaders testified on the bill, which Rep. Dan Doyle, R-Salem, the committee chairman, said will get another hearing.

Andrea Meyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon said the state agency provision is so broad it could "sweep in" even the governor or legislators into testing requirements.