This election will see the legalization of recreational marijuana up for vote in nine more states. The arguments often center on increased state income, analogies with Prohibition, questionable claims of medication not being available otherwise, etc. But rarely does a citizen stop to think about the possibility of a teacher being high on marijuana in the classroom.
The Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) faces this situation on a near monthly basis.
The Professional Practices Commission (PPC) is charged with examining the cases of teachers who commit felonies or otherwise violate the professional standards we expect of the teachers who stand as role models for our children. That also includes considering prior diversion agreements. Teacher licenses are revoked for conviction of passing bad checks, sex-with-students, and other felonies. And recently, there has been an increase in diversions or convictions for possession of marijuana.
Recommendations from the PPC must be approved by the State Board of Education at a regular monthly meeting. These are open public records and the September 2016 KSBE meeting agenda details one interesting case that should give advocates of legalization of marijuana pause.
Usually, the teacher who has a record of marijuana use—revealed by conviction or a diversion agreement—can be approved to keep their license and teach in the classroom if they can show that they are no longer using, test clean, regret their prior behavior, and ensure the PPC they will not use in the future. The PPC then recommends they keep their license, as in the cases in the November agenda.
However, in September [as noted on page 115 of the KSBE agenda], one teacher did not agree to submit to hair follicle drug testing seven days after his hearing and again later. Based on his refusal to cooperate with their request for drug testing, as well as other concerns this raised, the PPC recommended his license be revoked. The State Board agreed.
While this action received no attention in the press, it raises a very big question. The Professional Practices Commission relies on specific “triggers” or “tripwires” (diversions and felony convictions) to draw their attention to problems in the profession. What if this teacher was teaching in Colorado where possession of marijuana and related paraphernalia was not a felony? Unlike alcohol, there is no easy breathalyzer test for marijuana levels. And THC remains in the blood longer than alcohol. There would be no felony conviction to trigger revocation. If he kept his usage low enough not to demonstrate gross impairment, it is likely that this teacher could keep his teaching license until retirement. He was just in the wrong state.
Citizens prone to minimize the consequence of legalizing marijuana might think twice if they realized that their children could be spending a year in a classroom with a buzzed teacher.