Drug Testing: Random Suspicionless Drug Tests Suffer Double Smackdown in Louisiana

Two separate efforts to impose random suspicionless drug testing on different groups in Louisiana have failed -- one thanks to a court challenge, the other thanks to politics. The outcomes should mark an end to the hubbub over drug testing in the Bayou State in recent months, but, knowing Louisiana's political class, that may not be the case.

drug testing lab
In the first defeat, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board entered into a consent decree with the local Federation of Teachers and the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) agreeing not to subject teachers to drug testing without particularized suspicion. The teachers and the ACLU had earlier filed a lawsuit against the school board over its policy of requiring any teacher who suffered an injury on the job to take a drug test, regardless of any suspicion he or she was intoxicated.

The case revolved around one-time East Baton Rouge teacher of the year Peggy Reno, who was punched by a student in September 2008. Although there was no suggestion or suspicion that she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the school board required her to take an invasive drug test.

"The Constitution rightly requires that such invasive searches be based on reasonable suspicion," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU. "Public servants, like all of us, cannot be made to prove their innocence when there is no evidence that they have done anything wrong."

"In this case, both common sense and the Constitution called for a change in course," said Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana. "It is a waste of time and money, not to mention a gross violation of educators' rights, to drug test without suspicion."

As if that weren't enough of a slap-down, a bill before the legislature that would have required the drug testing of welfare recipients was killed Monday on an 11-5 House Appropriations Committee vote. The bill's sponsor, Rep. John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie), had argued that his proposal could save the state money from long-term health problems caused by drug abuse and would help families get addiction treatment.

Under the bill, people who received cash benefits from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program would have been required to undergo drug testing in order to stay on the program. If they tested positive, they would have to undergo drug treatment or lose their benefits.

"We're testing to make sure those children are in a safe environment to where their parents aren't abusing drugs," LaBruzzo said in remarks reported by the Associated Press.

But other legislators attacked the bill on both fiscal and constitutional grounds. "You're targeting a specific group of individuals," said Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge).

Rep. Jim Fannin (D-Jonesboro), the committee chair, questioned the cost of the bill, estimated at $625,000 the first year and $2.6 million over five years. The cash-strapped state couldn't afford costly new programs, he said, casting his vote against the bill.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Deeply religious 'Terror-tories' like louisiana...

Deeply religious 'terror-tories' like louisiana, alabama, and goergia are typically antagonistic to equality and subjective things like common-sense!

If common-sense is to exist, and enventually prevail, requires lots of accurate up-to-date information based on facts... not anecdotal fictions and fantasies handed down throw the ages.

Q. Common-sense and the constitution coming to the south?
A. Probably not in our life-times... if christian prohibitionists can prevent it!

I worry about my child and

I worry about my child and the drugs in this country,,,,it is getting worse and we need to do something about it, but of course it is all about money

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