Pa. bill would require drug testing for school job applicants
Bus drivers, financial directors and grocery store clerks can be required to take a drug test before they're hired in Pennsylvania — but not prospective school district employees.
That would change if legislation the state House passed on Tuesday becomes law and updates long-standing rules that allow school administrators to negotiate the inclusion of mandatory drug testing in union contracts. The Senate adjourned and will return to session on Jan. 7.
The bill is a no-brainer, said Rep. Anthony M. DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, who first proposed it four years ago. Some teachers union representatives contend the legislation isn't needed.
“Schools already require background checks; this is no different,” DeLuca said. “We want to head off problems before they start.”
David Broderic, state spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state's largest and most influential teachers union, said on Friday the bill “goes too far.”
“We are absolutely committed to protecting children and keeping classrooms safe, but we already have laws in place to discipline employees guilty of drug abuse on school grounds.
“The best way to solve a problem is to identify a problem that already exists,” Broderic said.
Critics argue the proposal violates employees' constitutional rights. Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania vowed to challenge the legislation in court if it becomes law.
“I don't want to wait for something horrible to happen for legislation like this to make it into public consciousness,” DeLuca said. “I just can't believe anyone would be against it.”
DeLuca called the proposal “a first step.” If his bill becomes law, he plans to propose a second bill to enforce random drug testing managed by school board members and negotiated through union contracts.
“I have way more calls, emails and Facebook messages coming in from teachers in favor of this measure than I do complaints,” he said. “Maybe the union reps are out of touch, because I don't think the average teacher wants someone working next to him who's impaired.”
The bill applies to anyone with direct contact with children, including prospective employees of public and private schools, intermediate units, vocational and technical schools, independent contractors and their employees beginning April 1, 2015. A controlled substances testing report would have to be submitted and paid for by the applicant after an offer of employment is made.
Valid prescriptions would be exempt.
Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association, said the organization took a neutral position pending amendments that would clear up the bill's language.
“We believe the offer of employment needs to be conditional upon the results of the drug tests,” Robinson said. “It's also unclear if a positive test will result in a lifetime ban, and we'd like them to explain the type and scope of testing, so will this be urinalysis or a blood test — that sort of thing.”
Because the bill applies only to new applicants and not union members, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said she had no problem with the bill.
“Now if they add language that will affect our members, then we may oppose it.”
Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5815 or email@example.com.
Add Megan Harris to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Corbett team rails at pollster
- Man sentenced for killing girlfriend after crash
- The Progress Fund awarded $2M federal grant
- Poll shows Wolf’s lead over Corbett widening
- State workers paying less than most for health benefits
- Racino near Youngstown to carve out slice of Pennsylvania market
- Unusually cold winter, spring reduces population of Western Pa. stink bugs
- Newlyweds guilty in Craigslist killing
- Pa. bridges, roads pay homage to famous, fallen
- Officials monitor Lake Erie water closely for hazardous algae
- Demand for truck drivers soars in Western Pennsylvania