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News (Media Awareness Project) - US WI: Teacher Drug Testing Is Rare
Title:US WI: Teacher Drug Testing Is Rare
Published On:2012-01-29
Source:Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (WI)
Fetched On:2012-01-31 06:02:24
TEACHER DRUG TESTING IS RARE

Only three of 14 school districts surveyed in central Wisconsin drug
test teachers before hiring them and none conducts random or
scheduled drug tests after employees are hired, according to a
Gannett Central Wisconsin Media survey.

Of the districts reviewed, the D.C. Everest Area, Medford and Stevens
Point districts are the only ones that check if prospective teachers,
administrators and support staff have consumed drugs shortly before
hire. About 2,325 of the roughly 5,900 people employed by the 14
school districts -- roughly 39 percent -- passed drug tests before
they were hired.

Other school districts surveyed were Abbotsford, Antigo, Athens,
Auburndale, Colby, Marathon, Marshfield, Merrill, Mosinee, Stratford
and Wausau.

The issue of drug testing drew attention recently after the
suspension of several Antigo and Merrill school district employees
who admitted to Langlade County Sheriff's Department investigators
they sold or consumed marijuana in recent months, according to court
documents. So far, three people are charged with drug offenses, one
Antigo elementary school principal is suspended without pay, and four
Antigo employees and one Merrill teacher are suspended with pay.

Kim Hall, the human resources director for the D.C. Everest Area
School District, said Everest offers jobs to prospective employees
contingent on passing drug tests. The district has about 1,100 full-
and part-time employees.

"A drug screen can tell a lot about a candidate," Hall said. "We want
good staff."

Antigo doesn't require a pre-hire drug test. Like many school
districts, Antigo has a policy that allows school officials to ask
employees who appear to be under the influence of drugs at school to
take tests. Employees can be fired for failing tests.

"There is certainly not a barrier preventing us from doing pre-hire
drug tests," said Sarah Zelazoski, coordinator of human resources for
the Antigo School District. "It is just something we haven't done."

Over-the-counter drug testing kits available at local pharmacies or
online cost between $20 and $100. The kits typically require urine or
hair samples and can test for the presence of multiple drugs. Some
provide results within minutes while other tests require a sample be
sent to a lab for analysis.

Most school officials surveyed said they do not require pre-hire drug
testing because their districts never have experienced allegations of
employees abusing drugs, or because the school board never asked for
employee drug tests.

Local school boards might be seeking a change in drug testing policy
given the publicity surrounding the Antigo and Merrill suspensions,
Mosinee School District Superintendent Jerry Rosso said. Mosinee is
one of the school districts that does not require a drug test to be
hired, but Rosso said he would not be surprised if his district's
school board requests a change in the near future. The board recently
updated its policy about reporting sexual assaults to children in
light of a sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University.

"Sometimes what happens in the news affects local policy," Rosso said.

All local schools surveyed receive federal grants and are required by
federal law to have drug-free workplace policies that inform
employees that they will face discipline if they possess, use or
distribute a controlled substance in school.

Merrill Area Public Schools Interim Superintendent Bruce Anderson and
Stratford Superintendent Scott Winch said their school districts had
been exploring the possibility of requiring pre-employment drug tests
before the Langlade County investigation was publicized.

"This is just like what we tell our students, that anything can be a
teaching moment," Anderson said. "You always want to adjust to be
better than you were."

- - Reporter Nathan Vine contributed.

[sidebar]

PRE-HIRE DRUG TESTING

The following school districts were asked whether prospective
employees must pass drug tests to be hired. Their responses:

Yes: D.C. Everest Area, Medford, Stevens Point

No: Abbotsford, Antigo, Athens, Auburndale, Colby, Marathon,
Marshfield, Merrill, Mosinee, Stratford, Wausau

No response: Edgar, Rosholt, Spencer, Wittenberg-Birnamwood
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