HomeNewsBoard members reluctant to stop pre-employment drug screening

Board members reluctant to stop pre-employment drug screening

The monthly work session for the Jackson-Madison County School Board had a number of topics discussed.

But the first major discussion in a meeting that lasted nearly three hours centered around vetting and onboarding process for new hires in the district and the role of drug-testing in that process.

As JMCSS Attorney Dale Thomas was going over different changes resolutions coming from the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) and the policy committee had discussed changing policies to be more in line with them, Thomas brought up the issue of drug testing.

According to the specific working in the district bylaws, Thomas said the wording for pre-employment drug screening are nowhere in the resolutions passed by TSBA. He added that JMCSS is an island unto itself because none of the surrounding school districts do pre-employment drug screenings as well.

He said the only employees who are required for pre-employment drug screenings are those who will be driving vehicles transporting students because they are required to be in line with model policy for federal employees and any JMCSS employee who drives is technically also an employee of the Department of Transportation.

Thomas said there is required drug screening for employees with whom there is suspicion of possible drug use.

Board member Harvey Walden immediately expressed his support for pre-employment screening because that would eliminate any problems with employees using illegal drugs before they become a problem within JMCSS.

Board member Debbie Gaugh read a prepared statement in which she expressed pre-employment screening would deter any drug users from even applying at JMCSS because they wouldn’t want to fail a test.

Thomas and JMCSS Director of Human Resources Diane Hicks-Watkins both said the drug screening adds to the time it takes to get a job candidate hired because it takes two or three days for the results of the test to come back. Hicks-Watkins said the burden of paying for the drug test and other things needed to vet candidates falls to the candidates themselves, so they are paying $150-180 just to try to be hired by the district, which can add to the delay. The drug tests themselves cost $40.

“If we’re asking someone to pay $40 as part of $180 just to be hired here, it may take them a few days or a couple weeks to have that money in hand to be able to pay it,” said board member Janice Hampton.

Board Chairman James “Pete” Johnson asked Hicks-Watkins how many drug tests are failed, to which she said was probably five or six during the hiring spree last summer before the beginning of the current school year and all of those were for marijuana.

Hampton proposed waiting on the drug screen until a month or so after they were hired to remove that delay from the process.

Board member Jason Compton suggested looking at removing the fees altogether from the hiring process.

“That’s a whole different discussion, but if we can do something to alleviate the financial piece that’s causing a lot of the road blocks for this process, then maybe we should,” Compton said.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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