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Scott school board OKs drug, alcohol policy for faculty

July 9th, 2014 10:49 pm by Wes Bunch

Scott school board OKs drug, alcohol policy for faculty

GATE CITY — The Scott County School Board voted recently to adopt a formal drug and alcohol policy that will subject all faculty and staff to suspicion-based testing.

The policy, which was unanimously approved during a special called meeting, is modeled after similar guidelines already put in place by Lee County Public Schools.

Scott County Schools Superintendent John Ferguson said during the meeting that he wanted to emphasize the fact that "reasonable suspicion" is needed to trigger a drug test under the new policy.

Scott County School Board Attorney William Sturgill also told board members that several changes had been made to the drug and alcohol testing guidelines to ensure they comply with case law and regulations.

The new policy, which will be in effect for the start of the 2014-15 school year, includes testing for a variety of illegal and prescription drugs, including marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, MDMA, and "any other substance defined as a 'controlled substance' by either Virginia or Federal law."

Under the guidelines, drug and alcohol testing is required for any employee who maintains a commercial driver's license and in the instance of an accident involving personal injury or property damage.

All employees are subject to the suspicion-based portion of the policy.

An employee is required to undergo drug and alcohol testing, the policy reads, if school administrators determine there is reasonable suspicion the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The policy defines reasonable suspicion as being based on "objective and articulable facts" that an employee is under the influence.

Those "objective and articulable facts" may include impaired motor coordination, the smell of alcohol, observed use, possession or sale of alcohol and drugs, violations of drug laws, frequent tardiness or absences, or poor job performance.

The policy also contains a provision for random drug testing of personnel if the school superintendent deems it "necessary to further the educational interests and/or welfare of the school division."

Employees chosen for suspicion-based testing would be required to submit to an oral or urine test for drugs and a breath test for the presence of alcohol.

Employees tested based on suspected drug or alcohol abuse would be transported by a school system employee to the test, while employees involved in accidents would report to a predetermined facility.

Employees tested for suspicion will be placed on paid leave until the test results return.

A positive test could be punished with termination. Employees who test positive for drugs and alcohol could also be required to undergo abuse counseling. Follow-up and return-to-duty testing would also be a requirement before an employee who tests positive is allowed to return to work.

In addition to drug testing, the policy also outlines the school system's procedures related to property searches for banned substances.

According to the policy, the school system has "the right to search, without employee consent, all areas and property in which it maintains either full control or joint control with the employee, including ... vehicles, property, and equipment."

The search would be conducted in case of an employee being subject to a suspicion-based test, or if the result from a random drug test returns positive.

The adoption of the policy comes less than two months after the creation of Scott County Public Schools Pledge Program.

As part of the pledge program, students at all three Scott County high schools must undergo preseason and random testing, and successfully pass, in order to participate in VHSL-sanctioned events.

The school board also made several adjustments to that policy recently in the run-up to its implementation when school begins in August.

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