FARMINGTON — Updating Regional School Unit 9’s alcohol and drug testing policy continues to be a complex issue, as directors debated the best way to manage testing procedures of staff who transport students with Maine’s recreational and medicinal marijuana laws.

RSU 9 follows federal guidelines for testing but has not had a written policy. Federal law states that random alcohol and drug testing be conducted for any school staff that transport sixteen or more students and applies to drivers with CDL licenses. The law does not extend to faculty, coaches or other staff who may drive small groups of students for field trips or school competitions.

“I have strong feelings about testing not being required for all district employees,” said Director Debbie Smith of Weld. “Even one student’s life on the line is too many.”

Others agreed, but Superintendent Tina Meserve offered caution.

“We have two driver positions responsible that do not require CDL licenses,” Meserve said. “But Richard Joseph, our Transportation Specialist, has indicated it will be a nightmare to have every person who drives tested. It is already illegal for anyone to drive under the influence. Recreational marijuana is legally allowed, and people use different cannabis products for health purposes. A drug test won’t stop a person from coming to work under the influence but it will identify someone who has used legal treatments at a point in the past.”

Jonathan Chalmers, Director of Support Services, added, “We need a policy for CDL drivers for alcohol and drug testing. For staff without commercial licenses, it is a separate issue. We should get guidance on that. ”

“My conversation with Richard clarified some things,” Meserve added. “We have students that attend programs in other districts. Five are driven to Lewiston and two to Auburn. Those kids are transported on buses, by drivers who are tested.”

Director Doug Dunlap of Farmington suggested that the policy be separated between commercial drivers and non-CDL RSU 9 staff. The Board agreed to solicit legal advice and guidance from the Maine School Board Association before writing a separate policy. The operations committee will make its recommendation to the Board in January, 2020.

Approving the testing policy puts RSU 9 in compliance with Maine state law requiring all districts have a policy for commercial drivers.

 

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