Pubdate: Mon, 20 May 2013
Source: Express-Times, The (PA)
Copyright: 2013 The Express-Times
Author: Sara K. Satullo


The Bangor Area School Board tonight approved a random drug testing 
policy for all of its employees, but it won't go into effect unless 
the teachers union agrees to it.

The district already screens potential new hires before making a job 
offer, and state law allows testing of employees who seem to be 
intoxicated on school grounds. Earlier this year, district 
administrators agreed to undergo random testing and now officials 
wish to expand testing to all employees.

Bangor officials have said they think the policy would make Bangor 
the first district in Pennsylvania to randomly test employees. The 
Pennsylvania School Boards Association did not return a message 
seeking comment. The Pennsylvania State Education Association could 
not immediately say if any other district randomly tests teachers.

In New Jersey, school boards can opt to make drug testing part of the 
pre-employment screening as well as if there's reasonable suspicion, 
said Michael Yaple, a spokesman with the New Jersey School Boards 
Association. He doesn't think any organization tracks random testing.

"Our sense is you don't see it much, if at all," Yaple said. "It is 
something you would negotiate."

Bangor Area Education Association President Kevin Lilly said tonight 
his union remains open to the idea as the district and teachers 
continue negotiating and ironing out the details of the new contract. 
The union would have to vote to approve the testing, Lilly said.

Both district officials and teachers agreed to push the contract 
expiration date forward from Aug. 31 to June 30.

The community has pushed the board to implement a random drug testing 
policy but no one has been more vocal than Dawn Riso, mother of 
24-year-old Gina Riso, a district teacher who died from a heroin 
overdose in December 2009 in the apartment of former Bangor Area High 
School assistant wrestling coach Brad Washburn.

Board members were initially reluctant to consider the policy for 
fear it would be struck down in court. But teachers agreed to 
negotiate the issue.

Wearing a T-shirt with her daughter's portrait, Riso attended 
tonight's meeting imploring board members to do the right thing as 
she showed them photos of her daughter. If the district had a random 
drug testing policy in place five years ago, her daughter would still 
be alive, Riso said.

"That was not my daughter's nature," she said.

After the vote, Riso said she was a bit confused with the board's 
action since the policy has no teeth without teacher support. She'll 
feel a lot better once the union votes in favor of it, she said.

"If it's not (passed) I'm not stopping there," she said. "I'm not 
done. I'm trying to make something good out of something bad."

Former school board member Ron Angle said it may be an unusual 
suggestion coming from him but he thinks the board should've held off 
on passing a policy and offered it as a "carrot" in contract talks. 
He questioned how many times an employee has been suspected of being 
under the influence and was tested, which officials couldn't answer.

"The answer will be zero," Angle said, calling the state law allowing 
such testing "valueless."

Board member Frank Addessi voted against the testing policy. Before 
the vote, he pointed out to the board that random testing doesn't 
mean 100 percent of all employees will ever be tested.

"Random drug testing is an illusion," Addessi said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom