SCHOOL BUS DRIVER QUITS AFTER POSITIVE DRUG TEST

BOB GARDINIER Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B7

Date: Thursday, June 12, 1997

CLIFTON PARK -- The Shenendehowa district school bus driver who tested positive for drug use two years ago has resigned after testing positive a second time in a federally mandated random drug test.


The district confirmed Wednesday that the female bus driver, who lost her job two years ago after a positive test but was reinstated last year after filing a grievance, tested positive again in the past two weeks, said David Burpee, the school's director of staff services. The driver resigned rather than be terminated by the district's transportation department, which employs about 250 people.


``The driver was on a six-month probation period and tested negative through that, was allowed to drive again and again tested positive,'' Burpee said.


The district is unsure whether the driver ever operated a bus under the influence of drugs. She has had no other problems with the district and no serious accidents.


District officials released the woman's name but would not say what drug showed up in the test or how long she had worked for the district. The Times Union is withholding the her name because she faces no criminal charges. She could not be reached for comment.


The driver first showed positive for drugs when testing for bus operators was begun in the 9,000-student school district in early 1995, following the passage of federal legislation mandating such tests.


At that time the district immediately dismissed the driver, but she filed a grievance through the Civil Service Employees Association arguing that federal and state regulations did not mandate dismissal after a positive test. A year ago an arbitrator ruled that the dismissal was too drastic and that the driver should have been given other options, such as counseling and probation.


The arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association also ruled that the district had to reinstate the driver if she reapplied for her job, which she promptly did.


The driver had resumed her driving duties a couple of months ago after drug counseling and the six month probationary period that kept her from getting behind the wheel, Burpee said.


The district successfully changed a clause in the new CSEA contract passed recently allowing officials to suspended without pay or discharge an employee with less then two written warnings concerning positive results for drug or alcohol use, according to district documents.


Burpee said school officials in the Capital Region continue to push for state legislation that would permanently revoke commercial licenses of bus drivers who test positive for drugs or alcohol. The bill recently passed the state Senate but is bogged down in the Assembly Transportation Committee, said Assemblyman Robert G. Prentiss, R-Colonie.