Should Teachers Have To Take Drug Tests?

Many Coast teachers say they are hurt and shocked that two of their own have been accused of drug-related crimes.

Last week, a Jackson County physical education teacher was arrested on three counts of drug possession. And this week, a PE teacher at Gulfport Central Middle School was arrested and charged with selling crack cocaine.

Most school districts have similar policies when it comes to drug testing. Teachers are not subject to mandatory or random drug tests. In fact, only school bus driver are required to do so. However, if the school district gets a complaint, or has reason to believe a teacher is using drugs, then the teacher may be required to be tested. Many teachers say that policy should not change.

Ramona Berry has been teaching for 25 years. Part of her job is to steer students away from drugs.

"We do sign a contract saying we will be drug-free and set an example for our students," Berry said.

Berry says if she's forced to take a drug test, she would. But she doesn't think a mandatory drug testing policy for teachers is a good idea.

"I don't feel that it's necessary because we are professionals, and we teach against drug abuse," Berry said. "I don't think we're any different from any other profession."

Gulfport School Superintendent Carlos Hicks agrees.

"[There is] no more reason to do a drug test on teachers than to do mandatory drug testing on doctors or lawyers, Sunday school teachers or ministers, unless we have reason to believe a person has a problem," Hicks said.

The director of the Mississippi American Federation of Teachers, Maryann Graczyk, agrees that teachers should be tested only when they are suspected of using drugs. If there's reason to test, each school district must follow strict guidelines to make sure the teacher's rights are protected.

"We're concerned as to 'Is the laboratory that is conducting the drug test a certified laboratory?' We want that. 'What are the protections to make sure that the drug testing material cannot be tampered with? Are there two samples taken? And if both of those come back positive, what happens to that employee?'," ," Graczyk said.

From a parent's perspective, Valeria Carter says drug-testing teachers makes sense.

"I feel like they should undergo drug tests," Carter said. "For one thing, if they can test for other jobs and stuff could be done, I think this should be done also for the sake of the kids."