Drug screening of school employees discussed

Also access to camera surveillance

Drug screening of school employees and the district’s use of surveillance cameras were topics of discussion at the Greene County Schools board of education meeting June 21.

Questions were raised by parent Heather Patrick, who said she had followed channels and was speaking to the board as a last step. She reported she had a previous discussion with superintendent Tim Christensen and was not satisfied with the results.

“My concern is, as a parent – If there is a teacher, bus driver, janitor, anybody out there – Why can’t we drug screen anybody if there is any suspicion?” she said.

She asked why, if the school policy rules out possessing alcohol or drugs, employees can’t be screened. She said she understands the Fourth Amendment forbids some searches. “If you guys can bring drug dogs into the schools, that’s a violation of my child’s Fourth Amendment rights if you think about it,” she said.

“You need to think of our children, and your children and your grandchildren. Would you want them around this? Is it safe for our kids? No… something needs done,” Patrick said.

According to Christensen, “reasonable suspicion” is needed before an employee can be drug tested. He said Patrick’s complaint was based on second hand information. He had asked her to have the person with first-hand knowledge of the situation talk to him, and that person had not.

“If your employees don’t have anything to hide, why should it matter to go ahead and have a test done just to get it out of the way, to drop it?” Patrick asked.

“Because legally we cannot make them take a drug test,” board member Mike Dennhardt answered. “If someone cares about kids and told you this, that person needs to come in.”

District business manager Brenda Muir explained the process of background checks done on all school employees and volunteers. The background check goes back into the 1970s, she said.

Patrick also asked about the policy for camera surveillance and how the surveillance can be viewed. She asked the board to consider who has access, and whether they’re watching the surveillance on a cell phone or a desktop computer in an office. “You shouldn’t be at home or in a vehicle watching our kids. I don’t think that’s right,” she said.

About camera surveillance, Christensen said administrators have access to camera surveillance on their cell phones, but they don’t often use that device to view it. Patrick said watching surveillance on a cell phone is a violation of privacy, and that except in an emergency, surveillance could be viewed during school hours only at the school.

Christensen said he will check with legal counsel on the definition of “reasonable suspicion” to allow drug screening, and that Patrick brought up “good points” about access to camera surveillance. The board will continue the discussion at the July meeting.

 

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