Pubdate: Fri, 23 May 2014
Source: Express-Times, The (PA)
Copyright: 2014 The Express-Times
Author: Lynn Ondrusek
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The Bangor Area School District teachers rejected a random drug 
testing policy for teachers.

Had they approved the policy, the district would have been first in 
the state to adopt it. Most policies cover only new hires.

According to a statement from Bangor Area Education Association 
President Kevin Lilly, the union voted Wednesday 163-30 against the 
policy, which would have given the district the authority to impose 
indiscriminate testing on teachers.

"Ethically, we can all agree that drug testing is not wrong if it's a 
pre-employment requirement and if the employer reasonably suspects 
that an employee is under the influence," the statement said. "This 
vote was about our constitutional rights provided under the Fourth 
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the historical case law that 
defends public employees against unreasonable search and seizure."

The school board approved the policy last May. State law allows 
testing of employees who appear intoxicated on school grounds.

Lilly says in the statement that the teachers worked with the school 
board on the policy for several months. Those negotiations were 
separate from teachers' contract talks. The teachers rejected a 
contract offer last week. They've been without a contract since June.

Lilly said the teachers and board discussed the protocol for those 
who test positive, whether testing should be on school grounds and 
how to identify false-positive tests.

Lilly said in the statement that medicines such as Dimetapp can 
indicate a positive test for methamphetamine or ecstasy, and 
Alka-Seltzer Plus can indicate amphetamines and morphine.

"We saw it as too much of a risk for our people, the district and the 
taxpayers," he said in the statement. "If litigation were to occur 
.. then there would be an even higher cost to the district and taxpayers."

Lilly said the teachers believe most of the community feels the 
Bangor Area School District teachers don't have drug problems. 
Administrators, teachers and students can look for signs that a 
teacher has a drug problem, he said.

"If teachers are using illegal substances then they deserve to be 
held accountable and disciplined," he said.

School Board President Pam Colton said in an email the administration 
has worked under a random drug testing policy for the past year with 
no problems.

Only about 30 staff members came to a drug policy presentation held 
May 14 by the district, Colton said.

Colton said she doesn't know what will happen with the policy.

"Right now we are back to the beginning with negotiations. Everything 
is back on the table," she said in the email.

The drug testing came to the forefront at the district after the 
fatal 2009 heroin overdose of teacher Gina Riso inside the apartment 
of Brad Washburn, then an assistant wrestling coach for the district.

Riso's mother, Dawn, has been among community members pressing the 
district for random drug testing of teachers.

Washburn wasn't charged in Gina Riso's death. He admitted in a 
separate case to smoking marijuana and swamping pills with district students.

Dawn Riso said Wednesday she wasn't surprised that teachers voted the 
policy down and she is still not going to give up her fight.

"It's just wrong," she said.

Former Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle wonders if there will 
be another Washburn and Gina Riso incident.

"What's wrong with them policing their own ranks?" he said. "It's got 
to make parents wonder who the teachers are."

Angle, who was fighting for the policy before Riso's death, said he 
would support Dawn Riso's efforts to go to Harrisburg to change state law.

"It's a sad day for the Bangor teachers union," he added. "Instead of 
sending a message that this is a drug and alcohol free district, they 
are sending the opposite message."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom