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Schoolgirl Sues Pennsylvania District Over Drug Tests

An 11-year-old girl, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia law firm Dechert LLP have filed suit against a Lancaster County school district over its policy requiring random drug tests of students engaging in extracurricular activities. The ACLU said the lawsuit was filed last Wednesday.

The suit was filed on behalf of the student, identified only by the initials "MM" and her parents, Mika and Christopher McDougall of Peach Bottom. The lawsuit says MM was barred from participating in orchestra and chorus at the beginning of the school year and cannot join any athletic or academic teams because she and her parents refused to consent to submitting her to drug tests.

"We refused to sign the forms, so on her first day of orchestra, she was on her way to rehearsal, she was told by the principal she was not allowed to be in the orchestra," Christopher McDougall said.

MM is described as an academically high-performing student who was also asked to join the school's math club, but is barred from that as well.

The US Supreme Court has held that the random drug testing of student athletes or students involved in extracurricular activities does not violate the US Constitution. But some state supreme courts, including Pennsylvania's, have found protections against random drug testing of students in their state constitutions.

The lawsuit charges that the Solanco School District's student drug testing policy violates a 2003 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision holding that random drug testing of students is unconstitutional unless the school districts can show that the group of students being tested had a high drug use rate. That case was Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District.

The ACLU and Dechert LLC brought similar lawsuits against two other school districts last year. In both of those cases, state court have issued preliminary injunctions barring the school districts from conducting random drug tests of students.

"In the past year, judges have issued injunctions to stop similar policies in two other school districts. Unfortunately, the Solanco School District has not learned from other districts' mistakes," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Not only are these policies a violation of students' right to privacy, numerous studies have shown they do not reduce student drug use," he continued.

"We're surprised and disappointed that Solanco School District is not only ignoring the law, but also the example of other school districts which have rejected the same policy because they understand that spying on students without suspicion is against the Constitution," said the McDougalls. "These are young people who have done nothing wrong, not prisoners on parole. We've tried repeatedly to persuade the district to abide by the state Supreme Court's ruling, but it has refused. That's unfortunate, because the district's responsibility is to teach students to respect and understand the law, not sidestep it."

The school district has yet to comment.

Peach Bottom, PA
United States

Fight Is On to Make Drug Possession a Misdemeanor in California [FEATURE]

At the end of February, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill that would make drug possession for personal use a misdemeanor in California. If the bill passes, California would join 13 other states and the District of Columbia that have taken the cost-saving and rehabilitation-aiding step of not making felons out of mere drug users.

California needs to reduce prison and jail overcrowding (US Supreme Court)
The measure, Senate Bill 1506, would make the possession of any controlled substance -- except up to an ounce of marijuana, which is already decriminalized -- a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail. Under current law, possession of controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, is a felony punishable by either up to 16 months in county jail or two to three years in state prison.

A felony conviction doesn't just mean jail or prison time. It becomes a permanent barrier to reentry into society, making access to education, employment, and housing more difficult, as well as barring people with such convictions from obtaining professional licenses and subjecting them to various other obstacles.

The bill is backed by an array of drug policy, civil liberties, and human rights groups, including early supporters the American Civil Liberties Union, the California State NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Budget-conscious California voters have shown an interest in drug sentencing reform in the past. In 2000, they passed Proposition 36 to divert drug offenders from prison to treatment by a margin of 61%. Since then, the state's economic situation has only gotten worse, and pressure to do something about its gargantuan $9.3 billion corrections budget is on the rise.

A Lake Research Partners poll released last April found that 72% of respondents favored changing drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, with 40% saying small-time drug possession for person use should be considered an infraction, with no jail time. Strong support for such a reform cuts across party lines, with support among Democrats at 79%, among independents at 72%, and among Republicans at 66%.

"Over the years we have learned that long prison sentences do little to deter or limit personal drug use," said Sen. Leno. "In fact, time behind bars and felony records often have horrible consequences for people trying to overcome addiction because they are unlikely to receive drug treatment in prison and have few job prospects and educational opportunities when they leave. This legislation will help implement public safety realignment and protect our communities by reserving prison and jail space for more serious offenders," he said.

"This bill merely revises the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor," Leno told the Chronicle Tuesday. "It will save the counties about $160 million a year, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office, and the state another $65 million. Thirteen states have already done this, and they have higher rates of treatment and lower rates of drug use and property and violent crime."

"The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure we can no longer afford," said Allen Hopper, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director at the ACLU of California. "California voters agree the punishment should fit the crime, and a felony for simple possession is ridiculous. Those who are addicted to drugs need treatment, not a jail cell and a felony conviction with severe and life-long consequences, like reduced access to job opportunities, student loans, and small business loans."

Drug possession would be a misdemeanor in California rather than a felony if SB 1506 passes (wikimedia.org)
"The goal is to make the penalty closer to what people think it should be," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, senior policy analyst for criminal justice and drug policy at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "People think a felony charge is too harsh, and there is pretty universal support for treating drug use more as a health issue and prioritizing law enforcement resources for people convicted of serious offenses," she told the Chronicle.

The push for the bill is picking up steam, Dooley-Sammuli said.

"We have quite a broad coalition, and the list of groups coming out in support is long and getting longer by the day," she said. "We have faith, treatment, and housing groups; we have job placement organizations; we have family members and other folks who realize the this penalty is just too harsh. We've just added two more: California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a defense attorneys' group, and the William Velasquez Institute, a group that will bring Latino communities into the process of helping to shape policies that impact them."

While an impressive coalition is budding to support the bill, and while polls suggest strong public support for such a measure, not everybody is on board, particularly law enforcement. 

"We're opposed to this bill for a variety of reasons," said John Lovell, a Sacramento attorney who is a lobbyist for the California Police Chiefs Association. "We don't think it's appropriate to reduce these offenses to misdemeanors because of severe unintended consequences. No one in California is being incarcerated for a first or second drug possession offense; instead, they are sent to a Proposition 36 drug treatment program," Lovell told the Chronicle.

"We believe this will create a disincentive for people to participate in a Prop 36 treatment program, and that is not a good thing," the lobbyist continued. "To the extent we can have a successful treatment result, that is one less person in a cycle of drug addiction."

"Oh, please!" exclaimed Dooley-Sammuli. "Lovell said the same kinds of things when Prop 36 passed. They were saying the sky would fall, that nobody would be in treatment and there would be crime in the streets, but the crime rate continues to go down."

Given the current fiscal constraints on the state criminal justice system, the "real world" result of downgrading drug possession to a misdemeanor would be that drug offenders essentially walk free, Lovell said.

"Say a person is convicted of meth possession," he said. "He is told he has a choice of Prop 36 treatment or going to the county jail, but the jails are all filled to capacity, and nobody does any time for a misdemeanor offense. An attorney representing such as person is ethically bound to say 'If you refuse treatment, there is no real sanction at all,'" Lovell maintained. "These will be misdemeanants, not felons, not under supervision and not breaking the cycle of addiction, which means the crimes they commit to purchase their dope will continue," he said. "It's not like you get a scholarship to pay for the cost of your meth."

But the bill provides for up to three years probation -- five years in some cases -- and would allow judges to order drug treatment as a condition for probation.

Saying that the state will benefit from saving money on not prosecuting drug users as felons is "a hackneyed argument," Lovell said. "If you say it will save money because these people aren't being supervised, yes, it will save that money, but if they're not being supervised they're more likely to go out and commit the economic crimes addicts commit. It's not so much a savings as a cost shift," he argued.

"We do not see this bill as yielding any positive public policy results," Lovell summed up.

"None of California's existing programs to make treatment available will be affected by this," countered Dooley-Sammuli, "and counties will have the freedom to use these dollars more wisely to make treatment more available. Compared to five years ago, treatment dollars have absolutely been gutted, and we're really working to identify ways to preserve funding so we can protect treatment. It's really disingenuous for our opponents to talk about this getting in the way of access to treatment. If Jerry Lovell is worried about access to treatment, we call on him to support this bill."

Leno responded more tersely to Lovell's arguments. "He's a dogmatic extremist. If you think drug use is a bad thing, the states that have actually lowered drug use are not felony states," the San Francisco Democrat said. "By making these offenses misdemeanors, we can remove barriers to housing, education, and employment -- the very things a felony conviction makes it more difficult to obtain, those unintended consequences of a felony conviction."

Now, it's up to the measure's supporters to get it moving. The bill will be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee next month. For it to pass this year, it has to get out of committee, win approval in the Senate, and then go through the same process in the Assembly. And it has to happen by August, when the session ends.

"It's a very tight time-frame," said Dooley-Sammuli. "We're still educating people about this bill, but this is a serious effort, and we believe we can get that support with the right coalition partners and more education. Sen. Leno doesn't introduce bills just to make a statement, but because he thinks they have a political chance."

"We're looking for support anywhere and everywhere," Leno said. "We are talking to law enforcement agencies to educate them that there is no data showing that felony convictions reduce drug use."

There's clearly some work to be done on that score. But more important is getting actual legislators to vote for the bill.

"I believe there will be significant, and hopefully sufficient, Democratic support for the bill," said Leno, "and I'm also hoping Republican colleagues will see we can't waste the money and must invest in evidence-based programming."

California has the chance to pass a smart, cost-effective, and humane drug sentencing reform bill, but the clock is ticking.

The other states that treat drug possession as a misdemeanor are Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Gingrich Would Execute Mexico Drug Cartel Leaders

Republican presidential nominee contender Newt Gingrich said Saturday he would favor the use of the death penalty against Mexican drug trafficking organization leaders. The comments came in an interview with Yahoo News in which the former Georgia congressman and Speaker of the House also called medical marijuana in California "a joke" and suggested he would try to make life miserable for US drug users as a means of driving down drug use rates.

GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich (wikimedia.org)
Gingrich is now a leading contender for the Republican nomination. According to Real Clear Politics, which averages all polls, Gingrich is in first place nationally with 23.8%, ahead of his closest contender, Mitt Romney, who has 21.3%.

"My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy, and that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans," Gingrich said.

When asked if he stood by his 1996 legislation that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers, he replied in the affirmative.

"I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure," he said. "Look at the level of violence they've done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, 'These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.' If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country."

Gingrich suggested that Singapore, which imposes corporal punishment for minor offenses and the death penalty for drug offenses, was a role model. "Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that," Gingrich said. "They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country."

For Gingrich, being aggressive on drug policy also "means having steeper economic penalties and it means a willingness to do more drug testing."

He elaborated on what he had in mind in response to another question: "I think that we need to consider taking more explicit steps to make it expensive to be a drug user," he said. "It could be through testing before you get any kind of federal aid. Unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it."

Gingrich said that he wasn't a fan of imprisoning drug users and instead suggested that they be subjected to forced drug treatment. "I think finding ways to sanction them and to give them medical help and to get them to detox is a more logical long-term policy," he said.

Regarding medical marijuana, Gingrich, said he would continue current federal policy "largely because of the confusing signal that steps towards legalization sends to harder drugs [sic]." He also rejected letting states set their own policies "because I think you guarantee that people will cross state lines if it becomes a state-by-state exemption."

He also threw in a gratuitous jab at California's medical marijuana law. "I think the California experience is that medical marijuana becomes a joke," he said. "It becomes marijuana for any use. You find local doctors who will prescribe it for anybody that walks in."

GOP contenders Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have taken firm anti-prohibitionist stands on drug policy, but they are finding little support among voters for a party that claims to be for limited government and states' rights. Newt Gingrich's comments on drug policy are only the latest indication that for most Republicans, continuing to fight the war on drugs trumps other party principles.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Seattle Pilot Program Offers Treatment Not Arrest [FEATURE]

The Belltown neighborhood near downtown Seattle is a charming, vibrant urban locale, located just south of the city's landmark Space Needle. Filled with bars and cafes and desirable condos, it is a nighttime hot spot, but it is also a neighborhood where a relatively small number of problematic drug users have reduced the quality of life for residents and businesses alike. According to a recent study by the Seattle Police Department, some 50 people in Belltown were responsible for a whopping 2700 arrests.

4th Ave. & Wall St., Belltown neighborhood (Chas Redmond via wikimedia.org)
Now, instead of cycling those people through more endless -- and expensive -- rounds of arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and supervision, local officials and the Seattle Defender Association have embarked on an innovative pilot program in which beat officers will offer to take low-level, nonviolent drug offenders to drug treatment instead of arresting them, booking them into jail, and prosecuting them.

The pioneering program will allow officers the discretion to offer treatment to people charged with crimes such as public intoxication or drug possession, but not people with records of violence or those accused of dealing drugs. Offenders can decline the offer of treatment and instead be arrested and go through the criminal justice system.

Known as LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), the pilot program is designed to improve public safety and order and reduce the criminal behavior of program participants. It is based on successful "arrest referral" programs that have been operating in the United Kingdom for the past several years. The program has strong support from local elected and law enforcement officials.

"We are looking for effective public safety solutions,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. "If drug dealing and crime could be solved by arrests alone, we would have solved this problem a couple thousand arrests ago. LEAD offers a promising alternative to traditional responses to street-level drug dealing, and we look forward to tracking its results in Belltown."

"We know that the issue of chemical dependency in our society cannot be solved by law enforcement alone. It is a complex social problem that requires a comprehensive social solution,” said Seattle Chief of Police John Diaz. "LEAD provides our front line police officers with the discretion necessary to ensure that treatment diversion is utilized as a viable alternative to incarceration."

"Sheriff Sue Rahr and her staff support the concepts that act as the basis for the LEAD program, and we look forward to our participation," said King County Sheriff Major James Graddon. "Respect, open communication and common goals among some historically adversarial groups have created a positive environment to move this program forward. Using the formal criminal justice system for all offenses is costly and has proven to not necessarily be the most effective way to impact future offender behavior."

Graddon was referring to strained relations dating back to the last decade between the Seattle Police and the Defender Association, a nonprofit agency that provides legal representation to indigent defendants. In a bid to reduce tensions and work together on the common goal of reducing the number of repeat offenders cycling through the system, the Defender Association and law enforcement began discussing possible responses to the continuing problem of drug-user generated low-level crime with back in 2008. The LEAD program, which rolled out in Belltown a month ago now and which will also be tried in the Skyway neighborhood of unincorporated King County, is the fruit of those discussions.

Mayor McGinn at LEAD program press conference (mayormcginn.seattle.gov)
Defender Association Deputy Director Lisa Daugaard has been a prime mover in getting the program going. Given that the state of Washington faces a $2 billion budget deficit and looming social service cuts, Daugaard managed to obtain $4 million in grants from private foundations, including the Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation, to pay for four years worth of LEAD services, including not only drug treatment, but also job training, housing assistance, and educational opportunities.

"Now, because of the dismantling of the social safety net, these LEAD resources may be the only way that some people will be able to get treatment, housing, and other services," said Daugaard.

LEAD supporters hope that the by the end of the four-year pilot period, the program will be able to demonstrate that it can generate cost savings worthy of being picked up by state and local government. They aren't the only ones watching with interest. Stateline, a media outlet covering state government issues across the land, reported last week that Baltimore, New Orleans, Oakland, and the state of New Mexico have already expressed interest in the program.

As a pilot program, LEAD will undergo a rigorous evaluation to determine whether it has been a success. It that proves to be the case, it could be expanded in other Seattle and King County locales, officials said.

"The LEAD pilot has the potential to help people struggling with addiction and save public dollars at the same time," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "We can work in partnership to replace a downward spiral toward jail with support and resources. Our families and neighborhoods are better off when those headed for the criminal justice system are instead given the opportunity to lead a fulfilling and productive life."

It won't take four years to see what kind of impact LEAD has on Belltown and Skyway. Within a matter of weeks or months, we should be able to see whether this experiment in smart policing is working and produces a model that can be adopted elsewhere.

Seattle, WA
United States

ACLU Blocks Missouri College Drug Testing

A Missouri technical college's plan to force incoming students to undergo suspicionless drug testing is on hold after the ACLU of Eastern Missouri successfully sought a temporary injunction in federal court in St. Louis on September 14. With assistance from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Linn State Technical College students to challenge the constitutionality of the drug tests.

Linn State Technical College
Federal courts consider a drug test to be a search under the Fourth Amendment and have allowed only limited exceptions to the amendment's requirement that searches need a warrant based on reasonable suspicion. Those drug testing exceptions include people working in jobs that impact the public safety (truck drivers, airline pilots), police involved in drug law enforcement, and minor students who participate in high school athletic or other extracurricular activities.

Linn State administrators implemented the drug testing program this fall. It requires all first-year students and some returning students to be screened -- at their own expense -- for drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates.

Linn State admits in its drug testing FAQ that it does not believe "LSTC has any greater student drug use issue than other colleges," but justifies the drug testing by saying it is preparing students for the real world. "Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work," the FAQ said. "It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."

The drug testing program at Linn State would be the first of its kind among public institutions of higher learning in the US. The ACLU is determined not to let that happen.

"It is unconstitutional to force students to submit to a drug test when there is zero indication of any kind of criminal activity," said Jason Williamson, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. "The college has demonstrated no legitimate need to drug test its students that outweigh their constitutionally protected privacy rights. This is an unprecedented policy and nothing like it has ever been sanctioned by the courts."

"This is an invasive policy that requires people to submit to tests that reveal private and intimate things like medical conditions or whether they are pregnant that people have a right to protect, said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "A person's privacy should not be invaded like this, especially when they have done nothing wrong and when there's not even an allegation that they've done something wrong."

With the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the ACLU and the Linn State students it represents have won an initial victory. Now, they must convince the court in St. Louis that their temporary victory should be made permanent.

St. Louis, MO
United States

Hawaii Teachers Defeat Random Drug Testing

Ever since the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) agreed to make members submit to random suspicionless drug tests in a 2007 contract with a state, then backed away from that pledge after rethinking the rights it was agreeing to give up, the teachers and the state of Hawaii have been locked in a battle over random drug testing. That battle is now over.

Hawaii teachers won't have to provide these to keep their jobs. (image via Wikimedia)
While the administration of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle fought hard to force the teachers to submit, even taking the battle to the courts, the administration of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has taken a different course. In an agreement reached Monday, the state agreed to end its insistence on random drug and alcohol testing for teachers.

Negotiators for Gov. Abercrombie agreed to the settlement "to avoid further expense and risk of litigation," according to KITV-4 in Honolulu.

"For the past four years, the HSTA the ACLU have been challenging the random drug testing," said HSTA President Wil Okabe, who added the issue had become one of teachers' rights and the constitutionality of random suspicionless drug tests.

"We're very happy to see that no teachers will be exposed to this unconstitutional, expensive and unnecessary program," said ACLU attorney Dan Gluck.

While the HSTA does not support random suspicionless drug testing of teachers, the agreement does allow for drug testing with cause. The union is okay with that. "HSTA believes schools should be drug-free," said Okabe.

Honolulu, HI
United States

Missouri College Demands Students Undergo Drug Tests

Students arriving for the start of fall classes last week at Missouri's Linn State Technical College (LSTC) have been told they must take a mandatory drug test in order to attend classes at the school. The move by college officials makes the school the first public institution of higher education in the land to require suspicionless drug testing, and that has raised the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has announced it is seeking plaintiffs to challenge the policy in court.

Linn State Technical College
According to the school's FAQ about drug testing, students who refuse to undergo drug testing will be subject to "an administrative or student-initiated withdrawal," while those who test positive will be put on probation and required to complete either an online educational program at their own cost or assigned to complete unspecified "appropriate activities."

They have 45 days to retake the drug test and pass it, after which they will be subject to random drug testing for the rest of the semester. Students who fail both the first and the second tests will be subject to "student initiated withdrawal or an administrative withdrawal," the academic equivalent of "you can quit or you're fired."

Linn State admits in its FAQ that it does not believe "LSTC has any greater student drug use issue than other colleges," but justifies the drug testing by saying it is preparing students for the real world. "Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work," the FAQ said. "It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."

The problem for Linn State and its suspicionless mandatory drug testing program is that the federal courts have viewed drug testing by government entities as a search under the Fourth Amendment. That requires particularized suspicion and the issuance of a search warrant.

Limited exceptions have been carved out, including for workers doing tasks that involve public safety, for law enforcement personnel doing anti-drug work, and for high school students involved in student athletics or extracurricular programs. But those are the only exceptions to the broad rule that there can be no government drug testing absent reasonable cause.

The ACLU champions this restrictive view of government's limited ability to demand drug testing -- its Florida affiliate announced last week that it is suing the state of Florida over a new law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug tests -- and is ready to take Linn State to court.

"Americans have a right to privacy, and that includes the students of Linn State," the group wrote in a blog post last week. "The ACLU is looking for plaintiffs to challenge this illegal practice, and we want to hear from you. If you go to Linn State, please join our Facebook group, email or call us at (314) 652-3111. Unlike Linn State, we are here to protect your rights, not violate them."

Linn State is charging all incoming students $50 apiece to pay for their drug tests, but that is not going to cover the legal costs of defending what is very likely to be found an unconstitutional invasion of adult students' right to be free of unwarranted searches.

Linn, MO
United States

llinois School District Teachers Settle Drug Testing Strike

School will finally be getting underway in Glasford, Illinois, after the teachers' union and the school board compromised on language requiring drug testing for teachers. Teachers had been on strike since August 17, balking at contract language that would have subjected them to random suspicionless drug testing.

No mandatory random drug tests for Illini Bluff teachers, but they have to pass one drug test first. (Image: ISBD 327)
Under the contract agreement reached last week by the teachers and the Illini Bluffs District 327 Board of Education, current teachers agreed to submit to a single drug test before September 15. Then they may voluntarily join a random drug testing pool that will also include the administration and school board members.

New hires will be treated differently, however. They will be subject to mandatory random drug testing.

As a concession to the district for not agreeing to mandatory random drug testing, the teachers' union accepted a 5% decrease in the percentage the district pays for health insurance in the second and third years of the three-year contract.

According to the Pekin Times, neither side was particularly happy with the agreement. The school district didn't get full mandatory random drug testing, and the union didn't manage to kill drug testing completely.

"I think both sides gave a little bit to get the kids back in school," said Board Chairman Dennis Brown. He added that the reason the board wanting random testing was because it wanted to be "proactive in an issue instead of reactive."

It was the union that brought the idea of teachers taking a simple test to the table. Ray Roskos, field manager for the Illinois Federation of Teachers brought with him to the board meeting an envelope he said contained drug tests results for all the teachers -- all paid for at the union's expense. All were negative.

"It's sad they had to prove their innocence in this instance, but they did and we're happy with the result," Roskos said.

Glasford, IL
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/wanted1.jpg
US Embassy in Mexico cartel wanted poster
Thursday, August 25

In Monterrey, 52 people were killed when suspected Zetas ignited gasoline at the entrance to the Casino Royale. As of August 31, twelve people are in custody for the attack. Many of those killed died of smoke inhalation after fleeing to offices and bathrooms in the interior of the casino.

Although the exact motive is yet unknown, police are investigating the possibility that the casino was attacked after having refused to pay protection money to the Zetas. Another possibility that has been floated in the Mexican press is that the casino was used to launder money for a rival cartel.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the former police chief of the town of Columbus pleaded guilty to conspiracy, smuggling, and public corruption charges. Angela Vega was arrested in March along with the town's mayor and 13 others. The group is known to have trafficked at least 200 weapons to La Linea, the military wing of the Juarez Cartel.

Friday, August 26

In Michoacan, wanted posters were put up by the Knights Templar Organization. The banners, which show the mugshots of five men the names of six men said to now be working for the Zetas, offered rewards of between $100,000 and $500,000 as well as a phone number to call.

Sunday, August 28

In Almoya de Juarez, near Mexico City, authorities discovered the decomposed bodies of five individuals buried in a corn field. The discovery was made after a family member of a missing man received a phone call from an unidentified man who said that 23 people were buried in the field. The other 18 remain unaccounted for.

Monday, August 29

In Acapulco, at least 140 local schools were closed after teachers refused to go to work because of extortion threats. School had just begun one week prior. Teachers indicated that at least four teachers had been kidnapped in the past eight days, and cars full of armed men were seen cruising past at least one school.

In Tamaulipas, authorities announced that a top Gulf Cartel commander was among several cartel members captured in the town of Camargo over the weekend. Abiel Gonzalez Briones, "R-2," 28, was captured after an aerial patrol spotted a group of armed men, at least seven of whom were captured. Gonzalez Briones is thought to have been a main financial operator of the Gulf Cartel and the area chief for the Miguel Aleman area.

In the mountain town of Guachochi, Chihuahua, seven bodies were discovered by the army. They had all been missing since August 13. Of the dead, six were strangulated to death, and the seventh, a woman, was shot. Additionally, near Ciudad Juarez, five human skulls thought to be several years old were discovered.

Tuesday, August 30

In Utah, authorities announced the dismantling of a Sinaloa Cartel cell. At least 30 people have so far been taken into custody after an 18th month investigation, which led to the discovery of several high-level men described as being "command and control" for the the cartel in Utah. At least 30 pounds of meth, 2.5 of heroin were taken into custody, as well as cash and high-powered weapons.

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 6,700

IL School District Teachers Strike Over Drug Testing

Teachers in one Illinois school district went on strike Wednesday after the district failed to remove contract language demanding they submit to random, suspicionless drug testing. The teachers had offered to accept drug testing on reasonable cause, but at last minute Tuesday night meeting, the board rejected the compromise.

No school in Glaston, Illinois, this week. Teachers struck rather than submit to random drug tests. (Image: IBSD 327)
The matter had festered since last year, when it had been removed from contract negotiations as an intractable issue. The Illini Bluffs District 327 school board in May brought back the drug testing language in this year's contract negotiations and, remaining immune to suasion from the teachers, included the language in its formal final offer and items not agreed statement to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board last month. The board did try to sweeten the deal by offering to get drug tested, too, but the teachers weren't buying.

The board's demand for random, suspicionless teacher drug testing came despite its implicit admission that it was unneeded. In a July 21 press release chastising the union for refusing to buckle before its demands, the board wrote: "The testing program is not intended as a 'witchhunt' as the Board of Education believes that all District teachers would satisfactorily pass a drug and alcohol test."

At the same time, the teachers, represented by the Illini Bluffs Federation of Teachers, submitted their final offer, including their proposal for reasonable cause testing. They tersely noted that even reasonable cause testing was a concession, and that the estimated $6,000 cost to test the three-school district's 62 teachers could be better spent.

"While neither mandatory, random drug testing nor cause testing is an industry standard in the education profession, the Union offered the Board of Education a plan that would allow an administrator to deal with an employee drug problem if they ever have cause to do so," teacher negotiators wrote. "The Board admitted they have no specific concerns with any teacher or reason to believe a teacher has a problem. The Union looked at the $6,000 or more cost of the district’s policy and proposed the probable cause policy because they felt the cost of random testing would be better spent on students and classrooms."

School is supposed to start Thursday in Glaston, home of the Illini Bluffs District 327, but it looks like that isn't going to happen. The district has already canceled classes for the remainder of the week, and the teachers will be hitting the picket line instead of the books.

"We’ll be out there [picketing] from about 7:30 [am] to about 4:30 [pm]," said Keith Brown, lead negotiator for the union. "We want to be in a classroom instead of on the street. But they [the school board] didn't have that same agenda tonight," he told the Peoria Star-Journal after Tuesday's failed last-chance meeting.

Glaston, IL
United States

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