Policy change protects school employee privacy

"School employees won't have to tell their supervisor if they're taking Super Nighttime Buffo or some other such drug that might cause drowsiness next year.And school students caught drinking or doping it up won't automatically be reported to the police.Such were the changes approved by the South Whidbey School Board Tuesday night when various policies were again being reviewed and updated.School board policy number 5258 deals in part with employees taking medication which may adversely affect the staff member's ability to perform work . . . In such a case, the employee was to report the medication being taken to his or her supervisor. One rationale given was that the school district didn't want sleepy bus drivers.Steve Shapiro, a physician, protested at the first public reading of the policy in June that such a requirement would be an invasion of privacy. Upon further review by the school district's attorney, the policy was changed.The attorney felt it was an interesting discussion -- safety versus right of privacy, said Dr. Lisa Bjork, superintendent of schools. The attorney recommended, she said, that the part be deleted where the person is required to tell somebody. The board agreed unanimously to delete an entire paragraph that required reporting legal drug use to a supervisor.Police notalways calledShould students using drugs or alcohol on school grounds or at school-sanctioned events be turned in to the police? Last month, the policy in question, No. 2167, stated, All violators shall IMMEDIATELY be referred to the appropriate police agency.In June, No. 2167 also prompted comments of concern, and again the policy was changed. This time, only one word is different. The sentence now states, All violators shall NORMALLY be referred to the appropriate police agency.The normally leaves school authorities some wiggle room. In June, one citizen wondered what would happen if a student were caught with alcohol or drugs in a foreign country. Again, the board voted unanimously for the change in wording.After lengthy discussion witnessed by only two members of the general public, Jamie McNett and Jan Peticolas, the board gave final approval to a number of updated policies dealing with such things as student rights and responsibilities, teachers' rights and student discipline. Agreement couldn't be reached in a few areas, and those policies were deferred to next month.Jim Adsley and Barb Peticolas recommended numerous changes in wording, which resulted in delays that seemed to irritate Bob Riggs. At one point Riggs stated, Why quadruple the redundant? Superintendent Bjork resolved most of the tension by passing around a carton of cookies. The policies are on file at the school district office and can be reviewed by anyone interested. "

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