School bus drivers object to county's policy on drug testing

June 09, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll school bus drivers say they shouldn't have to take a drug test every time a student on the bus gets in a fight or throws something out the window.

A school official said yesterday that the drivers don't have to take a test on those occasions, but he wants to retain a policy that calls for a drug test after any incident or accident for which the cause isn't known.

Current guidelines in the schools' policy for what constitutes an "incident" are too vague, said several bus drivers who brought their complaints to a school board meeting yesterday.

Maryland law requires that drivers report any accidents. Under state Department of Transportation guidelines, the driver must take a drug test after any accident or incident that results in injury or damage, and in other specific cases.

The law calls for school officials to meet or exceed the state requirements for bus drivers, and Carroll officials have chosen to exceed them, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

Carroll policy is to require a drug test for any incident or accident, he said, although in cases where the the driver clearly didn't cause it, no drug test is required.

Mr. Smith said that as part of the regular review of the policy after its first year ends this month, he will look at clarifying which incidents would require a drug test.

The Department of Transportation regulations "are meant for truck drivers," Mr. Smith said.

"We've taken the position that our cargo is children, and the standard of care expected of our drivers is higher than for the driver who is transporting cantaloupes or TV sets," Mr. Smith said.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling told the drivers that although the board can't change state law, there may be ways to address the way Carroll school officials administer the policy.

One driver suggested allowing 24 hours to get a drug test, because some buses are still on the road when school offices and testing labs close for the day.

Drivers also said they need more clarification on what constitutes an incident.

One driver told of a harrowing time she had trying to arrange for a drug test after the lab had closed and she could not reach school administrators -- and all for an occurrence she later learned did not need to be reported.

Other drivers said they have trouble controlling students and driving at the same time.

One driver suggested showing students films about what can happen in a bus accident.

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