Drug Test Case May be Heard by Supreme Court

Drug Test Case May be Heard by Supreme Court
Posted by FoM on March 10, 2000 at 08:38:18 PT
By Erik Tryggestad, Savannah Morning News
Source: Savannah Morning News
Civil rights organization takes up cause of former teacher Sherry Hearn. During a drug search at Windsor Forest High School, a police officer said he found the remains of a marijuana joint in teacher Sherry Hearn's car.The school ordered her to take a urinalysis test within two hours of the discovery. Hearn, a social studies teacher, refused, calling the search unconstitutional. So the veteran educator was fired for insubordination.
That was 1996.Now a civil rights foundation is appealing her case to the highest court in the land.Attorneys for the Charlottesville, Va.-based Rutherford Institute filed a petition this week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review Hearn's suit against the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education."I am very, very fortunate to have them representing me," Hearn said in a telephone interview Thursday night. She said she did not want to comment further on the case.Occasionally, civil rights organizations will take up such causes if they are sympathetic to the plaintiff's plight, said Richard Nagareda, a law professor at the University of Georgia."It's not unusual. It depends upon the legal issues," he said.Rutherford Institute attorney John Whitehead said the case was important because Hearn -- who taught in Chatham County schools for 27 years and was named Teacher of the Year in 1994 -- taught her students about the U.S. Constitution and she objected to the mandated drug test on constitutional grounds."What the Supreme Court has been doing to the Fourth Amendment is disturbing to us," Whitehead said from his Culpepper, Va., office Thursday afternoon.The Fourth Amendment provides protection from unreasonable search and seizures, but in recent years the Supreme Court has expanded the rights of law enforcement officers to search vehicles for contraband without first obtaining a warrant.Hearn originally appealed her firing to the state Board of Education, which upheld the Chatham board's decision.In 1997 she filed a federal lawsuit against the local school board. A U.S. District judge granted a request by the board to dismiss the lawsuit.In 1999, Hearn's lawyers argued her case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court also dismissed the suit. The firing was ultimately upheld by the State Court of Appeals.Hearn started teaching at the Savannah Regional Youth Detention Center in 1998. She was fired from that job last year. Hearn said at the time she was not given a reason to believe she had a problem there. A Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman said she was given ample reason for the firing, but would not comment further. This second firing is unrelated to the Rutherford Institute's appeal.Just before the second firing, Hearn's story was the subject of a piece on NBC's "Dateline.""I saw that. That was very impressive," Whitehead said. "It's just the issues, and her character seemed so good. She's basically an innocent person who got caught in a quandary. We believe she deserves her day in court."But the appeal doesn't mean she'll get that day in court. The United States Supreme Court has heard fewer and fewer cases in recent years, law professor Nagareda said. It's well under 200 per year now, and the court gets more appeals each year than it can possibly handle."For every one that they review, there are many, many, many where they decide to let the lower court ruling stand," Nagareda said.That's what Savannah-Chatham County school board attorney Lea Holliday expects will happen."Our view is that the law has been firmly established," Holliday said Thursday.The school board has been notified about the appeal. Its stance remains that the drug test was a board policy and Hearn violated that policy."We think the law is pretty straightforward," he said.The Fourth Amendment:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. by Congress Sept. 25, 1789; ratified Dec. 15, 1791.The Rutherford Institute: http://www.rutherford.orgCrime and public safety reporter Erik Tryggestad can be reached at 652-0318.Web Posted Friday, March 10, 2000 Copyright: Savannah Morning NewsCannabisNews Drug Testing Articles & Archives:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: