School board approves updated drug policy

Nov. 15, 2012 @ 06:06 PM

The Sevier County Board of Education approved a new drug-free workplace policy — which now allows for random drug testing for employees who operate board vehicles or heavy machinery as well as reasonable suspicion testing for all employees — at its Monday meeting.

The new policy dictates that “safety-sensitive employees,” or employees (other than commercially licensed bus drivers, who have a separate set of rules and testing procedures) who operate board vehicles or heavy equipment, will be subject to random drug testing on a quarterly basis.

“We think, if we’re giving you the keys to the car, and that car’s owned by the school system, then that’s more serious,” said Chris McCarty, attorney for the board.

A supervisor or system official may now suggest reasonable suspicion testing if that official has reasonable suspicion that an employee violated the system’s alcohol or drug prohibitions.

Reasonable suspicion procedures may be invoked if job performance deteriorates or behavior changes where the use of alcohol or drugs may be reasonably suspected as the cause. Reasonable suspicion may also result from a specific incident or observation in which the employee appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The guidelines, however, are limited to employees on duty, during work hours, on or in board property, or at school-related functions.

Board chairwoman Becky Barnes inquired as to whether employees with prescription medication would be safe if that medication turned up in the drug screening.

“When you go to a drug screening, you must provide the prescriptions to the tester, so anything you have a prescription for is free gratis,” Assistant Superintendent Karen King said. “If there’s something found in your system for a prescription drug, and you don’t have that prescription, then you’re in violation of board policy.”

All drug and alcohol testing will be conducted by board-approved, independent, certified laboratories that use recognized techniques and procedures.

If an employee fails a drug test administered under this policy, that employee will be subject to discipline “up to and including dismissal,” according to the policy.

The policy further states that the “(Director of Schools) or his/her designee ... could also require the employee to satisfactorily participate in a drug abuse assistance or rehabilitation program sponsored by an approved private or public institution.”

The board also approved:

- Maternity leaves, maternity leave extensions, leave of absences, and medical leave of absences

- Use of schools, specifically for basketball practices and games

- Novel requests for the parallel reading list

- Day field trips, including sixth graders at New Center and sixth and eighth graders at Sevierville Middle to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

- Overnight field trips, including Sevier County High School DECA to Nashville

Before the meeting, the board also honored 47 faculty and staff members who retired at the end of the 2011-’12 school year with a combined 1,074 years of experience. The board honored each employee with a rose and a plaque for their years of service.