Board to review plan for drug, alcohol testing School bus drivers picked randomly

April 11, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford's 530 regular and substitute school bus drivers would be randomly tested for drug use under a proposal before the county school board.

Paul E. Welch, Harford's transportation supervisor for schools, said bus drivers would also be tested after any accident and when "reasonable cause" led to suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse. Also, applicants would be tested before being hired.

The school board, which is expected to pass the proposal, has until July 1 to develop a drug-testing policy for school bus drivers to bring Harford into compliance with state law.

Ron Eaton, a school board member, said he supported drug testing for employees, but was concerned about testing drivers after every accident, no matter how minor or who was at fault.

"If a car runs into the back of a bus which is stopped at a stop sign, why should the driver be tested?" he asked.

Bus drivers would have their names entered into a lottery. Five times a year, names would be drawn at random for testing. Thus, one driver could conceivably be tested five times or not at all in one year.

A final cost for the proposed four-year contract has yet to be determined, but each blood test would cost about $26, Mr. Welch said.

The contract would be with the National Center for Forensic Studies, a division of Maryland Medical Laboratory Inc. in Baltimore.

The blood tests would be able to detect substances such as amphetamines, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and hallucinogens, Mr. Welch said. The company could also do blood tests for alcohol, he said.

Mr. Welch said that sometimes parents, angry that their children have been reprimanded for misbehaving on the bus, have accused drivers of drinking.

In those cases, a school system employee has been sent to observe the driver and a urine test done.

About 10 years ago, a driver who was "visibly intoxicated" resigned immediately after being confronted, Mr. Welch said.

Mr. Welch, who has worked in transportation for about 13 years, said he could recall no other incidents of drug or alcohol abuse among school bus drivers.

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