Pubdate: Tue, 02 Oct 2012
Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)
Copyright: 2012 Independent Publishing Company, a division of E.W. Scripps
Author: Jennifer Crossley Howard
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)
Cited: Pickens schools letter to parents:


PICKENS - Employees of Pickens County schools will soon have to 
undergo random drug testing if the school board votes to follow the 
recommendation of its policy committee.

The proposed policy could go to the board for approval at its Oct. 22 meeting.

Plans to rewrite the district's drug policy were already in action 
before Saturday, when two employees were charged with multiple counts 
of distributing marijuana near a school.

The employees were Kimberly Dawn Anthony, 43, and Daniel John Fahey, 
48, Fahey resigned from his job as the district's school-to-work 
program coordinator, said John Eby, spokesman for the school 
district. Fahey was released from the Pickens County Detention Center 
Monday on $10,000 worth of surety bonds. Anthony, a computer 
keyboarding teacher at Gettys Middle School, was at the detention 
center Tuesday with bail set at $250,000. She is on suspension from 
the district.

Easley police found no evidence that the drugs were being given to students.

School District of Pickens County Superintendent Kelly Pew said a new 
drug policy would test all employees "we are legally able to test" 
regardless of job title, and would likely sample urine.

District bus drivers are currently the only employees who take random 
tests, as required by state law, and the only ones required to take 
them before being hired, Eby said.

Pew sent a letter to parents Monday expressing her support for the 
policy. She wrote that all district employees must pass a South 
Carolina Law Enforcement Division criminal background check or a 
criminal check through a private corporation software if they are 
from another state. Employees go through an extensive reference check 
as well. School district volunteers undergo background checks every 
three years.

School board Chairman Alex Saitta said the board sent the old drug 
policy to its policy committee, of which he is a member, on Sept. 17. 
The committee met Sept. 26 and supported adding random drug tests to 
the policy. It is currently under review by an attorney.

"Our hope is to have that policy back from the attorney, and out of 
committee and to the board as scheduled on Oct 22," Saitta said in an 
email Tuesday.

Money and avoiding potential lawsuits are two hurdles the district 
must consider before passing a new policy, according to Eby. Expense 
will determine how many employees can be tested at once. The 
district's general fund budget would cover testing costs, Pew, said, 
but the district will not solicit estimates from providers until the 
policy is passed.

There is concern that random drug testing could impinge on employees' 
Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, 
making the school district vulnerable to lawsuits.

Board trustee Jim Shelton said he thinks random testing is the only 
way to ensure Pickens County's 16,000 students are learning in a 
drug-free environment.

"Employees in the public sector should be scrutinized the same way 
people in the private sector are," he said.

The district cannot afford not to give the tests, he added, and said 
possibly negative reactions from employees will not affect the policy change.

Drug tests will preserve the reputation of Pickens County teachers, 
said Brenda Beth, a first-grade teacher at Crosswell Elementary in Easley.

"I don't want us to have a bad name," she said. "There are teachers 
here doing our jobs, and if drug testing takes that stigma off us, 
then I'm for it."

Board trustee Ben Trotter said he was shocked to learn that the 
district did not already conduct random drug tests. He represents the 
Easley area.

"A lot of people will look at this and think it's wrong," he said, 
"but if we can prevent one thing like what was reported last week 
it's worthwhile."

The tests are important regardless of the arrests, he said, because 
most employees work closely with children.

"We've got a lot of good teachers in the district," he said. "Most of 
them, if you ask them, they'd do it as long as the district paid for 
it of course."

Though trustees are not paid, Trotter said that it's only fair for 
them to take tests, too.

He said he hopes all board members support the measure.

"The person who votes against this is the person I'd like to give the 
drug test to," he said.

Efforts to reach policy committee members Judy Edwards and Jimmy 
Gillespie were not successful Tuesday.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom