Pubdate: Sat, 6 Dec 2008
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2008 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Ericka Mellon
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Two more Houston ISD teachers were arrested Friday on drug possession 
charges, marking at least the ninth such arrest on school district 
grounds since October.

Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra acknowledged in an interview this 
week that he was troubled by the recent string of arrests, which 
mostly involved marijuana police said they found in employees' cars 
at school.  Phone tips to Houston Independent School District police 
prompted the searches.

"Obviously, these tip line calls woke us up that we had a problem," 
Saavedra said. "Honestly, I didn't realize we had this type of 
problem. But I'm kind of convinced now that we have some level of 
problem with some of our adults."

Saavedra said he did not want to reveal details of his plan to deal 
with the issue because it was "partly a safety-security thing."

But, he said, "I anticipate we may do more searches, whether we get a 
tipline call or not. I feel we need to be proactive."

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said 
she would oppose random drug tests of teachers but understands the 
district searching the school parking lots.

"I can't criticize them for this," she said. "It is a drug-free zone. 
That means student, principals, teachers, all staff."

Friday's arrests involved two teachers from Woodson Middle School, 
with one accused of possessing marijuana and the other accused of 
having prescription drugs that did not belong to her, according to 
HISD spokesman Norm Uhl.

A representative for the Harris County District Attorney's office 
could not be reached for comment to confirm whether charges had been filed.

Limits on Random Testing

HISD's current policy only calls for random drug testing of bus 
drivers, police officers and other security personnel. Saavedra said 
he was not sure whether the district could legally conduct random 
tests of teachers, and he was not sure it was necessary.

The district has more than 29,000 employees.

"I think the majority of our staff members are clean, law-abiding 
citizens," Saavedra said, "and we need to weed out those that are not."

The nine HISD employees - eight teachers and one custodian - who have 
been arrested on drug charges this school year worked at Whittier 
Elementary, Williams Middle, Woodson Middle, Wheatley High and 
Worthing High schools, according to the district. In at least one 
case, prosecutors did not bring charges.

Last week, two employees were arrested for a second time.

Also, an assistant principal from Sharpstown High School was charged 
with felony possession of marijuana after authorities said he was 
growing the drug at home. 
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