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Teacher Drug Testing Bill Advances In Harrisburg

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Jon Delano Jon Delano
Jon Delano is a familiar face on KDKA-TV, having been the station's...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Teachers on drugs is a growing problem, says one official who wants to stop it.

“We certainly don’t want these individuals teaching our children,” PA Rep. Tony DeLuca told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.

A year ago, a Freedom Area teacher was caught on surveillance tape allegedly using drugs, and earlier this fall, a Northgate substitute teacher fell asleep in class because of his alleged use of heroin.

Now DeLuca, a Penn Hills Democrat, wants all new teachers and school employees tested for drugs before they are hired.

“If we can find another way and stop a problem from jeopardizing the most precious asset we have — our children and their minds — before it happens, that’s why we introduced this legislation,” noted DeLuca.

H.B. 810 would require job seekers to pay for drug tests.

The bill passed the state House of Representatives overwhelmingly, 188 to 12, with the support of all local state representatives, except three.

The big question politically is, can opponents block the bill in the state Senate?

The Pittsburgh teachers union opposes the bill, saying it’s an isolated problem.

“Why would we focus on something that isn’t really a problem and once again put another burden on teachers, another focus on teachers when there really isn’t an issue with drugs and teachers,” asked Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the PFT.

And the local civil liberties union threatens a lawsuit, saying government-mandated drug tests violate privacy rights.

“These tests reveal quite a lot of private information,” added Sara Rose, a local ACLU attorney. “It reveals whether a person has an illness, is taking prescription medications. It can even reveal if a teacher is pregnant.”

But many school administrators like DeLuca’s bill.

“We are looking out for the health, safety and welfare of students. And I just think in the world we live right now it’s very important that all our employees are drug-free,” said Dr. Linda Hippert, acting superintendent of the Fox Chapel School District.

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