Archive for Thursday, December 6, 2007

Drug tests not required of teachers

December 6, 2007

De Soto USD 232 is considering a random drug testing program for students but no such tests are required of its teachers.

That fact was on the minds of many patrons in the De Soto USD 232 who attended the community meetings on random drug testing last week.

Teachers in the district currently are not required to take a drug test although more and more employers are mandating their employees take a drug test before being hired.

However, De Soto is not alone. Shawnee Mission, Gardner Edgerton and Olathe school districts also do not require drug tests for teachers or administrators.

De Soto's committee on random drug testing couldn't address questions about testing teachers as it is solely studying student drug testing. But patrons' concerns were not unnoticed as Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said it was something the district would investigate.

Some school board members expressed interest in drug testing teachers and staff as well when the committee brought its findings to the board in June.

De Soto Teacher's Association President Justin Love said by law drug testing was an issue that would have to be negotiated between the school board and teachers.

"We'd be all for having a discussion with our district's school board on that," he said.

Drug testing is not required in many districts likely because there has been no probable cause, said Gene Neely, UniServ director for the Kansas National Education Association who works with members in Gardner Edgerton, De Soto, Olathe and Spring Hill.

"In the years that I have worked with De Soto, I have never heard any kind of concern," Neely said.

Sheryl Siegele, president of KNEA Shawnee Mission UniServ, said the lack of testing also could be attributed to the amount of screening that teachers -- especially new teachers -- must go through before and after being hired.

"If they were being affected by (drugs), it would show up in the classroom," she said.

Before employees are hired in the De Soto school district, they must have a thorough background check, said Mark Schmidt, director of human resources.

That background check includes looking at criminal records, driving records and checking if they are sexual predators. Additionally, the state of Kansas requires that teachers have an FBI check and get their fingerprints taken before they can receive their license to teach.

Schmidt said he had not been directed to look at a policy on drug testing for employees.

"I imagine it is a pretty complicated step," he said.

Board President Janine Gracy noted that many occupations do require testing upon hiring as well as random testing or testing if someone is suspected of using drugs.

"The school district is a major employer in our area so I don't think that we should be exempt from things like that," she said. "Addiction can happen to anyone but the point is to get them the help that they need."

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