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Meese Advocates Drug Tests for Teachers Who Seek Tenure

March 20, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III said Thursday that local school boards should be free to institute drug-testing programs for probationary teachers who seek tenure.

"We in the Department of Justice view freedom from drugs as a valid condition of employment for schoolteachers," he said.

"Drug testing has been upheld when applied to transportation workers and others whose jobs have a direct effect on public safety," Meese said. "And it seems to me almost an insult to teachers to maintain that their jobs are any less important."

His made his remarks in a speech at the University of Mississippi. Copies of the speech were released in Washington.

Meese said that "schools must furnish students with multiple examples of individuals leading drug-free lives, and who are glad to be doing so."

'A Lot of Nerve'

The heads of the nation's two largest teachers' unions spoke strongly against Meese's remarks.

"The Reagan Administration has a hell of a lot of nerve resting on a role-model argument, given the Iran scandal and other goings on in the Administration," said Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Mary Futrell, president of the National Education Assn., said that "knowing the attorney general, I'm not surprised" by his position. But she said she was "a little appalled" by the idea that all non-tenured teachers should have to submit to drug testing if a school board orders it.

Futrell said Meese had presented no evidence that drug abuse is widespread among teachers.

Meese's made the comments in connection with a court brief that the Justice Department has filed supporting a proposed teacher drug-testing program on Long Island, N.Y. There, the Patchogue-Medford School District notified all probationary teachers who were eligible for tenure that they would be required to submit urine samples to school nurses for drug testing.

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