Job Safety

July 22, 2005

Crossing Guard Fired

The following story from the Houston Chronicle, which was picked up on NPR, is another reminder of how pervasive urine testing is becoming. Readers of this blog already know that I am not in favor of the use of drugs, but it is worth repeating that I am not. Nor am I against using urine testing at schools, within the limits of current rules, and where specific kids need to be monitored for drug use. What we do need to look at though is the inappropriate use of testing for people who do not fit a risk category for drug use.

And, of course, using drug testing when alertness testing is what is needed, is dangerous.

Here is the story:

July 21, 2005, 10:06AM

Fired crossing guard gets show of support

Parents want HISD to rehire 79-year-old who was terminated for refusing drug test

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

School crossing guard Francis Light said he didn’t know what to think one morning last month when a woman approached him at his post outside Oak Forest Elementary School and asked for a urine sample.

“I’ve been doing this school job for about 16 years, and I never heard of anyone taking a drug test, at least the crossing guards,” said Light, 79. “Most of us are old people anyways.”

So he refused.

“About two hours later, when I got back home, they called and told me I was terminated,” Light said. “They told me I had 10 days to turn in my equipment — you know, a stop sign, raincoat, stuff like that.”

He shouldn’t have been surprised, said Terry Abbott, a Houston Independent School District spokesman.

“Every employee understands if you refuse the drug or alcohol test, you are automatically terminated,” Abbott said. “We cannot allow people who are responsible for children’s safety to refuse to take a drug or alcohol test.”

Light signed a form acknowledging as much in September.

“They give us rules and regulations, and every year they get thicker and thicker,” said Light, an Air Force veteran of World War II. “I don’t know if I ever read them.”

Light said he drank his last beer 51 years ago and has never used illegal drugs. He would have submitted to the drug test, he said, except he couldn’t find any Oak Forest administrators to tell him it was required.

“My nurse, my secretary, my principal — nobody was there,” Light said. “I didn’t have anybody there to talk to, and I didn’t know who this lady was.”

Now, some Oak Forest parents are lobbying the school district to give Light a second chance.

“This is just one of those situations where a better look at what’s going on would serve everyone well,” said parent Jim Capfer. “I trust my kid’s life with this man.”

About 30 parents have come out in support of Light so far, Capfer said.

But HISD can’t make an exception for Light, Abbott said, even if Light has a perfect work record.

“It would completely destroy our ability to keep children safe if we allowed people to refuse the drug or alcohol test,” he said.

Light said he understands what’s at stake. He was on duty April 14 when fifth-grader Anthony Dwight was struck and killed by a vehicle while riding his bike just beyond Light’s crosswalk.

“It’s still bothering me a lot,” Light said. He remembers Anthony as the boy who often offered to sing him the songs he’d learned that day in school. “I think I lost 5 pounds that week.”

While he’ll miss the $250 checks he received every other week from HISD, Light said it’s the relationships with the students he’ll miss the most.

“I made a lot of friends over at that school,” he said. “They’re all good people and all good kids.”

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