West Des Moines schools to screen applicants for drugs, alcohol

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The West Des Moines school district will begin screening potential employees for drugs and alcohol.

The district's school board approved the new policy Monday. The policy, which mirrors screening done in the private sector, is believed to be among the first for public schools nationwide.

"We can say with a fair amount of confidence that this is the first such policy in Iowa," said Lisa Bartusek, associate executive director for the Iowa Association of School Boards.

The West Des Moines school district hires about 100 new employees each year. Drug testing for those applicants is expected to cost about $5,000 a year, Associate Superintendent Lisa Remy said.

The policy also will affect current employees suspected of drug use. Teachers will not be randomly tested.

Current employees who test positive for drugs or arrive at work with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher could be fired or forced to seek treatment.

"It was surprising to me that other districts don't do this," said board member Susan Moritz. "It came out of the idea that our bus drivers were already being tested, and if we felt that was important for our bus drivers, wasn't it also important for the people who were in our buildings?"

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