If you’re a new teacher who just graduated and you’re looking for your first permanent placement at a school, or if you’re looking for a new teaching job, you might be wondering, do teachers get drug tested?
At the moment, many school districts do not require their teachers to get drug tested, but it depends on a few different factors like location and whether you teach at a public or private school. Many people believe that teachers should be drug tested because they work with children. School districts, on the other hand, find drug testing to be overly expensive and unnecessary since teachers are statistically unlikely to use illegal drugs.
Have more questions? Curious about the rules in your state or school district? Keep reading to learn if teachers get drug tested!
Where are teachers drug tested?
While there is no single state that requires drug tests for all educators, it is up to the individual school district to decide if they can afford drug tests for their employees. You are much more likely to be drug tested if you work for a private school though since private institutions have more choice over the allocation of their funds.
Just because there are no states that currently require their teachers to get drug tested, several states have considered legislation that would require teachers to get drug tested. While there has yet to be any motion at the federal level for teachers to get drug tested, the number of states considering this kind of legislation shows just how big the desire for mandatory random drug tests for teachers is getting.
In Hawaii, the former governor Linda Lingle is pushing for reforms that would require teachers to get drug tested. Her support for mandatory drug tests for teachers was spurred on by six unrelated drug arrests in 2019. In response, the Hawaii State Teachers Association negotiated an agreement to implement a testing program in exchange for an 11% raise for all teachers.
Many teachers oppose random testing, so the motion to require drug tests in Hawaii has been stuck in court while discussions continue to this day.
Like in Hawaii, legislation has been introduced in Missouri that would require random drug tests for teachers. Although there were no drug-related crimes cited as the reasoning behind this legislation, it is still gaining traction because other professions in the state require drug tests.
Don Wells, the state representative who introduced the legislation, told the media “Why should a school employee not be tested? After all, police officers, factory workers and people in most other industries can be randomly tested for drug use.” His argument reflects the frustrations of other workers who need drug tests, but ignores teachers who feel that random drug tests are invasive and unnecessary.
Until two school employees faced charges of drug possession, the state of Virginia had never considered mandatory drug tests for its teachers. While the idea is gaining traction in the public school system, the high cost of drug tests will most likely prevent legislation from ever being passed into law.
A spokesman for Manassas City Schools, Al Radford, told the media that random drug testing could end up costing individual school districts an average of $55,000! Since so many schools are already struggling for cash, they are unlikely to be willing to pay for mandatory drug tests for their teachers.
Why do people believe teachers should get drug tested?
People believe that teachers should be drug tested for a number of reasons. Generally, the people most in favor of drug tests for teachers aren’t even in the education field. These people may not be aware of the circumstances preventing districts from requiring drug tests, which can end up being very costly and invasive.
They work with children
One of the biggest reasons that people support drug tests for teachers is that they work with children. Since their actions and choices can impact an entire classroom of highly impressionable people, many parents feel that teachers should have to pass drug tests to make sure they aren’t using illegal, dangerous substances while on the job.
Other professions need to get drug tested
Another reason that so many people outside of the education field want teachers to get drug tested is that many similar professions require drug tests. If people like factory workers, healthcare workers or other government employees need to be tested then it doesn’t make sense for teachers to be exempted from drug tests.
This is especially true when you consider that teachers are also technically government employees. Since other government employees need drug tests, people feel that teachers should need them as well.
Teachers have been caught with drugs in the past
One final reason that people believe teachers should be drug tested is the simple fact that teachers have been caught in the past with illegal drugs. While teachers might not be statistically very likely to use illegal drugs, it has happened before which is enough reason for many to believe that teachers should be drug tested.
The few cases of teachers having illegal drugs provide the majority of the reasoning behind showing support for mandatory drug tests. These cases are why states like Hawaii, Missouri and Virginia are considering drug test laws for teachers in the first place.
Why do people oppose teachers getting drug tested?
On the other side of the spectrum, there are many reasons that teachers should be exempted from mandatory drug tests. Beyond being an additional expense that many school districts simply can’t afford, many teachers feel that random tests are invasive and unnecessary, especially when data from research suggests that teachers are one of the least likely groups to use illegal drugs.
District-wide, mandatory drug tests can be very expensive
One of the biggest reasons that people oppose mandatory random drug testing for teachers is that they can prove to be very costly to cash-strapped public school districts. As mentioned above, district-wide tests could end up costing some larger school districts around $55,000.
With schools already struggling to get enough funding, the thousands of dollars needed to conduct drug testing simply can’t be found. For drug tests to become mandatory at the district level, the federal government would need to step in and increase the funding of public schools all across the United States.
They are invasive to the privacy of teachers
Many teachers oppose mandatory random drug tests because they feel that they can be invasive of their privacy. Many teachers worry that random drug tests can reveal prescription drugs that they are using, or they can even make school officials aware of a pregnancy that has not yet been revealed.
This can be extremely invasive to teachers who may not want their employer to be aware of prescription drugs that they are taking — in fact, schools getting this information can be considered a violation of the ADA since prescription medications can reveal information about an individual’s disability.
Teachers are among the least likely groups to use illegal drugs
Another big reason that people oppose drug tests for teachers is that teachers are statistically amongst the least likely groups to use illegal drugs. It doesn’t make sense for school districts that are light on cash to conduct expensive drug tests if they are unlikely to turn up any results.
If school districts conduct these tests and find no evidence of illegal drugs, they risk upsetting the teachers that were subjected to the random tests and parents whose tax dollars help to pay for the drug tests.
Random drug tests can lead to discrimination in the workplace
Another big fear of people who oppose mandatory random drug testing is that it can end up causing discrimination in the workplace. Instead of actually choosing random teachers to participate in drug testing, administrators could single out employees that they dislike to require them to get tested.
If random drug testing policies were implemented, administrators would need to make sure that they do not single out a specific group to get drug tested. Drug tests should only be conducted if there is reasonable suspicion that a teacher is under the influence of drugs while doing their job.
Conclusion – Do Teachers Get Drug Tested?
If you’re a prospective teacher just heading into your field, you can rest easy knowing that public school districts do not require their teachers to get drug tested. While there is a strong movement in favor of mandatory random drug tests for teachers, there are many cons that outweigh the benefits.
Between unnecessary costs and teachers fearing for their privacy, it is highly unlikely teachers will need to get drug tested at any point in the near future. It is unfeasible that school districts will be able to afford drug tests, and since teachers are statistically unlikely to use illegal drugs, random testing could end up being a big waste of time and money anyway.
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