County BOE votes to toughen schools system’s alcohol policy

Published 8:33 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

Members of the Carter County Board of Education voted unanimously to toughen the school system’s drug and alcohol testing policy during Thursday’s meeting.

Following a recommendation the school system’s policy review committee, the Board voted unanimously to change the language in the current Drug and Alcohol Testing for Employees Policy to read that results of an alcohol test “will be considered positive if the results are .02 or above.” The previous wording in the policy stated the test would be considered positive if the results were 0.08 or higher. Under Tennessee state law, 0.08 is also considered the legal intoxication limit for driving under the influence.

The policy maintains the school system’s authority to send employees for drug or alcohol use for testing based on “reasonable suspicion” they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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“If anyone even just smells alcohol on somebody they need to be tested,” Board of Education Member LaDonna Stout Boone said during Thursday’s meeting.

Assistant Director of Schools Peggy Campbell assured Boone and other Board members that the policy still allows supervisors to send employees for testing and outlines a procedure for how it is to be handled.

Under the terms of the policy, there are two types of cases for which reasonable suspicion procedures can be invoked: chronic case and acute case. The policy defines “chronic case” as “deteriorating job performance or changes in personal trait characteristics where the use of alcohol or drugs may be reasonably suspected as the cause.” Under the policy “acute case” is defined as “appearing in a specific incident or observation to then be under the present influence of alcohol and/or drugs or investigation of an accident where the use of alcohol or drugs is reasonably suspected to be a contributing cause.”

The new changes to the policy will go into effect immediately according to Board Member Kelly Crain, who serves on the policy review committee.

The new levels for alcohol tests are also more stringent than state standards under the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Program. According to documentation from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Employers Implementation Guide for the program sets the following alcohol results guidelines:  “An employee whose normal faculties are impaired due to alcoholic beverages, or whose blood alcohol level tests .10% by weight for non-safety sensitive positions, or .04% for safety sensitive positions, while on duty/company business shall be guilty of misconduct, and shall be subject to discipline up to and including termination.”