Education bill would require teacher drug testing

2/25/2014

By HANNAH WISE

By HANNAH WISE

KU Statehouse Wire Service

The Senate committee on education ducked discussion of creating a Kansas public charter school act Tuesday, but moved two other bills to the Senate floor.

The committee last heard testimony on the establishment of charter schools on Feb. 1, and further discussion was slated for Tuesday's hearing. The measure would increase the number of charter schools in the state by allowing more public entities to establish charter schools. It would also remove procedural and funding barriers for charter schools.

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, said the bill is still on the table, but committee members who are not in support of charter schools are still trying to shore up votes before it is presented to the committee again. She said it is unlikely to be heard next week, but it will be heard before the session is up.

The committee did move an amended form of SB 335 to the Senate floor by a 6-2 vote with three abstentions. The bill would require school districts to implement a drug screening program for all employees. The program will be based upon suspicion of illegal drug use by any employee.

The amendment passed Tuesday would allow the employee to request a second drug test of the same specimen by a different testing facility to check for false positives. The bill says that school districts must wait to administer disciplinary action against the employee until the second drug test is conducted.

The bill also calls for districts to create an "impaired teacher program" to assist teachers who have completed a drug or alcohol treatment program and are returning to teach. If a teacher fails a drug screening and refuses to enter a treatment program, then the bill allows for the teaching license to be suspended or revoked.

The same bill generated some debate over new regulations that would require all new applicants for teaching licenses to be finger printed by law enforcement. Fingerprints would be kept on file with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and used to conduct criminal background checks. The KBI will notify school districts if any of the teachers' fingerprints are related to a crime in the state.

The State Board of Education will not issue licenses to individuals who have been convicted of rape, indecent liberties with a child or aggravated indecent liberties with a child. They will also revoke teaching licenses for the same list of crimes.

The original version of the bill called for teachers to be fingerprinted every five years for license renewal, but the committee decided it would be excessive.

After some debate, the committee was informed that the State Board will be hearing a measure in March that will require all teachers to be fingerprinted, eliminating some committee members' concerns about some teachers not being put into the system. All teachers would be subject to the law, and no one would be grandfathered.

Also Tuesday, the committee unanimously passed SB 367, a student data privacy act. It is intended to protect individual student data from third parties.

It would only allow student data to be disclosed to authorized personnel from state agencies of the school and the state agency. It also only allows aggregate data that does not identify individual students to be disclosed. Individual student data will only be disclosed to parents or guardians of the student.

Both SB 367 and SB 335 will be heard in the full Senate this session.

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