Illinois School District Teachers Strike Over Drug Testing

No school in Glaston, Illinois, this week. Teachers struck rather than submit to random drug tests. (Image: IBSD 327)No school in Glaston, Illinois, this week. Teachers struck rather than submit to random drug tests. (Image: IBSD 327)

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.

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 Glasford, 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.

– Article Originally from Stop the Drug War.