Subscribe | E-Editions | River News 75 | Super Shopper - FREE | About Us | Contact Us | FREE Classified Items Under $50
The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Flanders Realty Group

home : news : county/state news March 23, 2017

"I'd be very uncomfortable, quite frankly, putting this language together ... and then just have it roll through the full board without knowing how this works. I guess I'm not ready for this, myself."

David Holperin, School Board member

7/28/2012 7:30:00 AM
District ponders drug testing
Proposal to be discussed Tuesday

Marcus Nesemann
Reporter/Photographer


A proposed new drug-testing policy will be discussed Tuesday by the School District of Rhinelander's Employee Relations Committee.

The proposed policy calls for mandatory testing if there is reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of a legal or illegal substance.

The issue was discussed at an Operations and Strategic Planning Committee meeting two weeks ago, but board members raised issues about how best to implement such a policy. Those issues will be addressed by the Employee Relations Committee.

"Other districts, as you might imagine, due to local news stories and so on, are moving in this direction," Superintendent Dr. Roger Erdahl said.

Erdahl declined to say whether he was referring to recent developments in Antigo, where several teachers and coaches are facing drug-related charges.

Among those arrested was John Lund, a former football coach and principal who pleaded guilty to 13 charges, including manufacturing THC. He was sentenced to six months in jail and four years of probation.

"One of the things that we've been asked by board members is, 'What are we going to do?'" Erdahl said. "One of the things we said was we are going to monitor what local school districts do and proceed cautiously, and now here we are."

Board member David Holperin asked whether a drug-testing policy is legal.

"I have not received a legal opinion but I do not see any legal difficulties with this if it's in board policy," Assistant Superintendent Dave Wall said.

Erdahl agreed, but noted legal challenges always are possible.

"... there could legal challenges, but, I mean, there seem to be endless legal challenges in policy-making," he said.

Board President Ron Counter pointed out that many private-sector employers have drug-testing policies.

"I won't say whether I support this or not, but I know in a lot of private workplaces ... if they suspect there are either alcohol or drugs involved, they can order you to be mandatorily tested and if you refuse, you are gone, or if you fail the drug test, then you either enter rehab or are terminated at that point," Counter said.

Wall emphasized that testing would not be random under the proposed policy.

"This is when we have reasonable suspicion," he said. "We want to help the employee, (and) we need to have evidence of (drug use)."

Board members also are interested in how best to define reasonable suspicion.

"Like most of the policies in the manual, they are open to an administrative interpretation," Erdahl said. "So we decide on a regular basis what constitutes a violation of policy. These powers are given to us by the school board. So, yes, there has to be a human judgment made.

"Is there sufficient evidence, in this case, to constitute forcing someone to go to the clinic?"

Counter said it will be important for the board to establish clear guidelines for administrators.

"If we were to initiate this policy, then I think (the board) would be responsible for making sure the administration got training so that they could identify situations where they may suspect (drug or alcohol use)," he said.

Employees should be assured, Erdahl added, that the policy will not be misused.

"This authority could be abused," he said. "People's reputations can be affected by miscalculations, so we would have to write our guidelines very carefully."

In previous years, such a policy would have been subject to negotiation with the unions representing district employees. But last year's implementation of Act 10, which all but eliminates collective bargaining for most of Wisconsin's public employees, cleared the way for unilateral policy changes by school boards statewide.

A local union official said the lack of bargaining over issues like drug testing could lead to abuse.

"When we used to negotiate over those issues, the union would take the position that if they had reasonable cause or just cause, that they would be able to do that," said Fred Andrist, the director of Northern Tier UniServ, which represents Rhinelander teachers. "The only question would be how do they interpret reasonable suspicion?

"Our concern would be that some administrator would abuse it. We've seen it in the past."

The Employee Relations Committee will fine-tune the proposal before possibly sending it to the full board for approval.

"I'd be very uncomfortable, quite frankly, putting this language together ... and then just have it roll through the full board without knowing how this works," Holperin said. "I guess I'm not ready for this, myself."

The committee meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the district's Administration Center, which is located in the high school.

Marcus Nesemann may be reached at marcus@rivernewsonline.com.





Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, and meet the comment guidelines (see "Comment Guidelines" at right). There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Required
Last Name:
Required
Telephone:
Required
Email:
Required
Comment:
Required
Passcode:
Required
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.
   


Advanced Search
search sponsored by



Subscription Login
LOGIN | SUBSCRIBE


Today's Circulars
Print-N-Save Coupons
Order photo reprints

Classifieds
Advertising Information

Community Connections
Submit to Newspaper...

Ced Vig's books for sale
Kris Gilbertson's 'I Recall...'

Marshfield Clinic - 1
Twitter

Reader Poll

In light of Sunshine Week, how would you grade your local government body or bodies in terms of transparency and openness?

Please select one:
A
B
C
D
F
Incomplete

View Results









Facebook | All Things | Wisconsin Lottery | The Lakeland Times - affiliate | Winter Road Conditions | Snow/Trail Conditions


The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC
232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361

Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121
Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce

Site Design and Content | Copyright 2017 1up!

Software © 1998-2017 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved