School districts discuss drug policies - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

School districts discuss drug policies

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(WAOW)-- A major drug investigation in the northwoods has caused at least one school district to take a look at drug testing for school employees. Tuesday night, Antigo board members moved forward with plans to update the district's drug testing policies.

District officials told Newsline 9 they are taking a look at drug testing for new hires and random drug testing for current employees and it is a direct result of a major drug investigation involving several former district employees. They did not take any action at a meeting Tuesday night, but did ask school officials to work with the district's attorney to update policy.

"The way to proceed with this is to have our attorney Dean and Roxann work together to develop new policies concerning drug screening and pre-employment and random drug screening," board member Gary Kieper said. Officials did not give a timeline for when any changes could be made.

Meanwhile, some other districts are also taking a look at their drug testing policies. The Merrill school board voted unanimously this week to institute mandatory drug testing for new hires. Random drug testing will not be a part of the new policy.

Merrill district officials said the new policy is not the result of the northwoods drug investigation involving at least one Merrill teacher, but the interim Superintendent admitted that did add to the discussion. "We treat our employees as respectfully as possible, but we also want to be clear on our expectations," Bruce Anderson said.

A Merrill teacher's aide said the new policy is the right move. "I think it's a pretty good policy just for the fact that you are dealing with students and we're one of the role models as much as the parents are," Toni Moldenhauer said.

But school officials said the change will cost the district about $35 to $50 per person. Anderson told Newsline 9 the district hires anywhere between 10 and 30 people each year.

"I believe it's a necessary policy because again, it's more about comfort level," he said.

Newsline 9 also spoke with some other school districts about their drug testing policies for employees. A representative from the Wausau school district declined to go on camera, but said board members did discuss the policy this year, but decided not to make any changes because it could infringe on employees' privacy. Currently, that district does not test new hires for drugs or randomly drug test current employees.

"We're respectful of this potential problem and we want to minimize the negative impact that could be having if it were to take place," Anderson said. He hopes the new drug testing policy in Merrill will help provide a safe environment for students and staff, while helping the district to hire good role models.

Merrill administrators plan to continue to look at the district's drug policies in the coming months.

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