- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2015


The D.C. Council made another wrong move Monday by discussing the pros and cons of the Prohibition of Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Act, which would bar employers from drug testing job applicants and prospective employees.

Before the lawmakers take another whiff of this insidious proposal, they should take a serious step in a different direction.

All 13 members of the council and Mayor Muriel Bowser, if she is considering endorsing such a bill, should be tested for drugs.

The very idea of measures such as these opens wide the doors to undermine public safety, public health and common sense.

The legislation was introduced by council members Vincent Orange, David Grosso and Anita Bonds, who are three of four at-large lawmakers, and it was co-sponsored by freshman lawmaker Charles Allen, who represents Capitol Hill, the U.S. Marine Barracks and the Washington Navy Yard, among other neighborhoods.

On first blush, the proposed law appears as though it might apply only to D.C. employers like private firms and nonprofit groups. But that’s at first blush.

Take schools. D.C. Public Schools says this on its website regarding drug testing: “As mandated by the Child and Youth, Safety and Health Omnibus Amendment Act of 2004 (CYSHA), DCPS has implemented a Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing (MDAT) Program. Under CYSHA, all employees in ‘safety-sensitive’ positions — those with a significant degree of contact with students — must be subject to drug and alcohol testing.”

But what about non-DCPS employees in “safety-sensitive” positions — those who work in before-school and after-school programs, for example?

Are parents to only learn after the fact that their children’s preschool caretaker is a pot head? Or that their school bus driver was transporting their disabled children and an ounce or two of marijuana on the same route?

And why should DCPS and the rest of the D.C. government be exempt but not Papa Johns, McDonald’s and liquor stores and the like?

This proposed measure, which springs from the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, makes no sense.

Unless, that is, its intent is to treat the mayor and D.C. lawmakers as an elite group of pro-marijuana enthusiasts whose message is “do as we say, not as we do.”

In fact, there are but two public benefits to the Prohibition of Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing Act: 1) “Report to the Council information regarding health education programs in public schools related to substance abuse;” and 2) “Evaluate the effectiveness of the District’s treatment programs regarding the use and abuse of marijuana.”

And both mandates should be under the purview of the Department of Health, the Metropolitan Police Department and DCPS — the agencies chiefly responsible for public health, public safety, and the health and education of babies, youths and adults.

An education conundrum

Speaking of Messrs. Orange and Grosso, and Ms. Bonds, the three Ward 5 residents actually represent all D.C. residents as at-large lawmakers and it’s time to put them on the spot again.

This time the issue is education, in general, and school choice, in particular. And they need to reveal their hand ASAP.

By week’s end, an estimated 1,600 could be school-less because the D.C. Public Charter School Board might vote to close the Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools, which has three D.C. campuses.

The vote is on the calendar because the founder of the schools, Kent Amos, is accused of financial improprieties. His case is in the hands of the courts.

But the charter board and city officials should not throw the babies out with the (possibly dirty) bath water.

The council did not declare itself defunct when lawmakers were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

The city didn’t give vouchers to tens of thousands of families so their kids could attend private and parochial schools when DCPS academics were in the toilet.

Don’t muddy the name of the late Dorothy I. Height because of what Mr. Amos or others may have done.

More important, do not block the schoolhouse doors to children because of what adults did or did not do.

Punish the offender, not the children.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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