Citing contractual restrictions, the Bangor Area School Board on Monday night would not vote on requiring teachers and support staff to submit to mandatory random drug testing.
The board did not make a motion to consider the measure following a public plea by Upper Mount Bethel resident Ron Angle, a former school board member. Angle noted the 2009 death of former teacher Gina Riso, who authorities said died of a heroin overdose while at the apartment of Brad Washburn, a former Bangor High School assistant wrestling coach.
“When dealing with the well-being of children, I believe at least 95 percent of the residents would want the testing,” Angle said. “Mr. Washburn slipped through the net,” resulting in the death of Riso, a former biology teacher, Angle said.
No other residents in attendance at the meeting spoke in favor of the random testing during the public comment period.
School Board Member Michael Goffredo said the issue is not as cut-and-dry as Angle is making it appear. “Even if we voted to approve the testing tonight, that vote would be meaningless in regards to the contracts we have in place today with the teachers and support group. We can’t say the testing is going into effect tonight no matter how much we want it.”
Goffredo said the board is trying to “get a consensus” with the teachers and support staff to add the testing requirement to future contracts. “The board and district leadership is doing everything we can to hear and listen to you, but we cannot re-write contacts we have in place overnight,” he said to Angle.
Greg Layton, president of the Bangor Area Educational Support Personnel Association, said during the meeting that proposed random drug and alcohol testing are part of ongoing contract negotiations between the association and school board. “Since this part of negotiations, it should not be publicly discussed,” he urged the board.
No teachers’ union representatives spoke during Monday night’s board meeting.
Riso's mother, Dawn Riso, has been regularly lobbying the school board, saying that testing would have identified drug users like Washburn.
Angle told the school board he was in contact with a Philadelphia labor attorney who claimed the board could enact the random drug testing. “This is about school safety, and isn’t a contractual issue like benefits and pay,” Angle said. “You have to do what is right. If they sue, they sue.”
Different board members said teachers and support staff were being unfairly maligned by Angle. “On behalf of our employees, it’s not them who don’t want to do the testing,” said Board Member Toni Lynch. “It’s the national union that’s against it.”
Later in the meeting, in what was an apparent remark against Angle, Lynch said, “It is demeaning to use a tragic event like this to keep getting attention for yourself.”
“The teachers are getting ridiculed for no reason at all,” said Board Member Ken Brewer.