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Report: DCPS not drug testing employees as required

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Local,DC

The District's public school system has not -- as required by law -- implemented mandatory drug and alcohol screenings of more than 8,000 employees who are regularly in contact with children, a city report obtained by The Washington Examiner has found.

"The D.C. Code requires that [DC Public Schools] employees who work in safety-sensitive positions undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing," D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby wrote. "This requirement is not being enforced at DCPS, and the policy and procedures necessary to implement testing of DCPS appointees and employees have not been finalized."

Under District law, employees in so-called "safety-sensitive positions" -- jobs that bring the employees into direct contact with children and youth -- should be subjected to screenings for drugs and alcohol.

But when city investigators began probing the existence of a testing program in the District's school system in January, they found scant evidence one existed.

By March, Willoughby writes, a DCPS official acknowledged to investigators that the agency didn't have a screening program.

The official, identified only as an employee of the school system's general counsel, said DCPS was "in the process of developing a 'fully compliant' policy ... and intends to have a policy in place prior to the end of this school year."

In a statement, DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz reiterated Friday that the agency still intends to put a testing program into place.

"DCPS is committed to ensuring all students are safe," Salmanowitz said. "We are working on the final details of a drug and alcohol testing policy that we expect to implement in the upcoming school year. We are working with stakeholders and the appropriate experts to make sure our policy is sound, appropriate and meets all requirements."

Under a 2008 policy issued by the District's Department of Human Resources, at least 15 city agencies are required to operate drug and alcohol testing programs. Under the city's guidelines, the testing should be performed in six circumstances, including when someone is hired. The policy also permits random testing.

Willoughby said that when his office sought information about testing programs for the "safety-sensitive" posts throughout city government, it learned DCPS was the only agency that did not appear to have an active program.

Willoughby noted that drug testing in schools has long been a controversial issue across the country.

In 2009, a federal judge blocked a West Virginia school district from testing its employees in certain situations -- including "reasonable cause" -- because it violated teachers' constitutional protections against unwarranted searches.

The inspector general also said at least three states have encountered difficulty imposing random drug testing for teachers.

But challenges across the country, Willoughby said, shouldn't deter DCPS.

"Regardless of what has transpired in other jurisdictions regarding drug testing of school employees," the inspector general wrote, "the District's requirement is clear and has not been implemented."

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