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Archive for Monday, July 30, 1990

SCHOOLS NEED POLICY ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE

July 30, 1990

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The Lawrence school board has plenty of incentive to approve an employee substance abuse policy scheduled for consideration at its meeting in two weeks.

If such a policy isn't in place by Aug. 17, the school district will not be eligible to receive any federal funds.

Amendments made in 1989 to the federal "Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act" require school districts to have an employee substance abuse policy. Although the amendments were made last year, the school district wasn't made aware of the mandate until earlier this month, said Bob Taylor, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

A district committee developed a policy for consideration at the July 16 school board meeting, but because not all board members were present, the policy could not be approved on first reading.

The board will next meet on Aug. 13, just four days before the deadline to file the policy with the state. Taylor said the federal government is "putting some teeth" in the mandate by tying eligibility for federal funds to the establishment of the drug policy.

TAYLOR SAID federal funds aid the district significantly in areas such as special education and Indian education. For the latter, the district has requested $17,433 in federal funds for the 1990-91 school year.

Although the school district has an unwritten policy for dealing with substance abuse problems, Taylor said, "I think it's good that the public understands that the board has a policy. I think the government wants students, teachers and parents to know that these things are important to the district and will be dealt with."

Under the proposed policy, all employees would have to sign a statement for placement in their personnel file. The statement says the employee is aware that "employees exhibiting `reasonable suspicion' of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital where an appropriate test(s) will be taken to help determine the cause of the impairment.

"Refusal to submit to `reasonable suspicion' testing and to provide test results to . . . Lawrence Public Schools shall result in immediate suspension pending termination from the district."

Bill Wilson, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district has dealt with employees suspected of substance abuse in the past. However, he said, the new policy "gives us a little more latitude in requesting drug tests."

WILSON SAID the policy addresses only substance abuse at the workplace. However, a similar procedure will be used to deal with employees whose performance is impaired because of suspected substance abuse away from work.

Wilson said that, currently, employees found to have substance abuse problems are not necessarily fired if they recognize their problems and seek appropriate help. The new policy will require written proof of successful participation in a drug abuse assistance or rehabilitation program licensed or certified by the state of Kansas.

Wilson said that in conjunction with the policy, the district is developing in-service programs to inform employees about substance abuse prevention and local agencies where substance abusers can get help.

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