Proposed Roaring Fork School District employee drug policy change raises legal question
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A suggestion to expand a policy related to disclosure by Roaring Fork School District Re-1 employees of a drug or alcohol conviction for any incident occurring off school grounds will require a legal opinion.
The Re-1 school board is updating its drug use and drug-free workplace policies for both students and staff, partly to reflect the new laws surrounding medical marijuana and the right of legally registered patients to possess and use marijuana.
Changes to the policies are intended to make it clear that marijuana is still not allowed to be possessed or used on school premises, even under the district’s policy for staff to administer prescription drugs to students, Re-1 Superintendent Judy Haptonstall said of the clarification.
Being under the influence of marijuana during school hours or at school-sanctioned events is also still not allowed, regardless of whether a teacher, staff member or student is a card-carrying medical marijuana patient.
“We would not be administering medical marijuana at school,” Haptonstall said. “If someone is [legally] medicating themselves with marijuana, that’s fine. But we can’t have kids coming to school high, any more than they can come to school drunk.”
What did raise a legal question, though, was a suggestion by school board member Myles Rovig at the April 14 school board meeting regarding a clause giving employees five days after a drug conviction “for a violation occurring in the workplace” to notify the district superintendent.
Rovig said the rule should apply to any conviction, not just those related to a workplace incident. He also said five days is too long to wait.
“I’d rather err on the side of protecting kids,” Rovig said. “I don’t want us to be hamstrung because someone might file suit.”
Other board members and district administrators, however, questioned whether the district’s reach into the after-hours activities of its employees can legally extend that far.
“I agree, and I understand the concern, but it’s a sticky wicket to get into people’s personal life,” board member Matt Flink said.
The district would already likely know about any incident occurring on school grounds, so the five-day clause is a rather a moot point, Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Shannon Pelland said.
And the district receives a report of any drug or alcohol convictions involving employees based on finger-printing that’s required of its personnel before they’re hired, she said.
“I just question how tight we can make this,” Pelland said of the policy language. “We’d have to ask our attorney whether it’s actionable, even if we had that information.”
Haptonstall said in a follow-up interview that such disclosure may be dictated by the state board of education, which is considering a proposal to require any drug or alcohol conviction, including DUIs, by teachers or other school personnel to be made public in some way.
The Re-1 policy revisions will be considered on third and final reading at the April 28 school board meeting.
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