The elected officials of Bay City, Mich., are currently renegotiating their contract with the Bay City Education Association, the local teacher union. The city officials may want to take this opportunity to take a second look at the old contract’s substance abuse provision. It allowed teachers to be caught drunk in class for up to five times before they can fired. They also had to be caught using illegal drugs on school property at least three times before they be fired. They were even allowed a second chance if they were caught dealing drugs on school property.
It’s all right there on page 92 (105 of the pdf) of the Bay City Education Association’s 2011-2 official contract. If the teacher is “under the influence of intoxicating liquor” on school premises, the first offense is a written reprimand. The second offense is three days suspension without pay and mandatory counseling. The third and fourth offenses are, respectively, five and ten days suspension without pay and counseling. It’s not until the fifth time a teacher has shown up on a school stinking drunk that they can be fired.
The scenario is somewhat shorter if the teacher is using or possessing illegal drugs, though the the first offense is still just a written reprimand. The second offense is three days suspension without pay. That is, by the way, “if the activity involved would constitute a misdemeanor under Michigan law,” which would appear to suggest there are situations where it wouldn’t apply. The third offense is the firing offense. The contract does allow that at second offense can be a firing offense “if the activity involved would constitute a felony.”
And finally, if a teacher is “involved in the unlawful sale, manufacture, or distribution or dispensation of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs” the first offense is three days suspension without pay and mandatory counseling. The second offense is a firing one, but only if the activity involved is a felony.
The section concludes with: “Any disciplinary action, including discharge … shall be subject to all applicable provisions in the respective Master Agreements, such as the due process/ just cause and the grievance/arbitration procedure or, if applicable, subject to the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act.” So, the union won’t necessarily let the firing be swift even if the teacher is a multiple offender.
Kudos to the Mackinac Center’s Tom Gantert for pointing this out first. He reports the language was first added to the contract in 1997. He notes in his blog post:
Students weren’t given as many chances. The code of conduct for middle school and high school students states that if they are found to be under the influence or in possession of illegal drugs, they get a 5-day suspension or a 3-day suspension with counseling on the first offense.
“They must have had been high to approve that contract because no sober person would agree to that kind of policy,” said Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. “The role models are held to a lower standard than the students. That just sends a horrible message. If anything is indicative of how far school boards are willing to bend to kiss the rings of union leaders, this is it.
“That is an absolute disgrace,” he said.
The provision of the teachers’ contract that allowed up to five strikes for being under the influence of alcohol and three strikes for being under the influence of illegal drugs before being fired was ruled as unenforceable by Public Act 103 in July 2011. However, the union contract states that if Public Act 103 is struck down, the policy goes back into effect for teachers.