CHARLESTON -- The outcome of a suit a state teachers union filed against the Kanawha County Board of Education after it elected to randomly drug test teachers is extremely important, the president of the union said.

"It will set a precedent if this is allowed to go through," said Judy Hale, president of the American Federation of Teachers –- West Virginia.

School boards in other counties across the Mountain State already have started talking about implementing a similar drug-testing policy, Hale said.

"They are waiting to see what will happen," she said.

AFT-WV filed the suit Nov. 26 in Kanawha Circuit Court, calling for an end to the board's plan to randomly test employees beginning in January.

The school board moved the case to federal court Dec. 9.

The first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 29 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin, Hale said.

Two other groups who filed similar suits -– West Virginia Education Association and American Civil Liberties Union –- still have their complaints at the state level, Hale said.

The decision to randomly test employees violates their constitutional rights, Fred Albert, president of AFT-Kanawha said in a news release.

"The Board left us no choice but to file the suit once they decided to implement a policy that risks student safety and violates the constitutional rights of its employees," he said. "The policy, in effect, places all teachers under suspicion; and this is both morally and legally wrong."

Albert told the Charleston Daily Mail the money spent on the testing and the suit, which could amount to several hundred thousand dollars in court and about $40,000 per year for drug testing, could be put to better use in the classroom and used to reduce the student drop out rate.

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