Spotsylvania School Board considering drug testing all employees after teacher’s arrest

by | May 22, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania, Uncategorized

Two recent, alarming incidents in Spotsylvania County Public Schools prompted the school board to act during a Monday meeting that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

The board voted 7-0 to instruct Interim Superintendent Kelly Guempel to bring back information to the next meeting on June 10 to examine the feasibility of implementing drug and alcohol testing for all employees. 

The testing would occur at the onset of hiring and randomly as well. 

The board also voted to have the school division’s human resources department report on its investigation of an incident in which a former Cedar Forest Elementary School behavioral intervention specialist allegedly struck a 6-year-old boy with a shoe. 

Gloria Joan Jackson, 73, of Spotsylvania is facing a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery in that case and will go before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court July 10. 

The catalyst for the board’s discussion on drug and alcohol testing was the arrest last Thursday of a Spotswood Elementary School second-grade teacher who allegedly possessed narcotics in her classroom.

Candyce Leigh Carter, 35, of Spotsylvania is facing charges of felony possession of Schedule I/II drugs, felony child endangerment and felony neglect or abuse of a child after she was arrested on school grounds. Her husband, Kristopher Carter, was arrested in the parking lot of the school allegedly under the influence of suspected narcotics and with a 2-year-old in the vehicle. He is facing charges of felony child endangerment and felony child neglect or abuse. 

Guempel noted that while the county currently has a drug testing policy for anyone whose job requires a commercial driver’s license, no such policy exists for other employees. 

That policy requires drivers to be tested at the time they are hired and randomly as well.  

Berkeley District board member April Gillespie initially made a motion to vote on implementing drug testing for all employees, but Guempel informed the board that he already has a meeting set up to discuss the costs and logistics of doing so.  

Courtland District board member Carol Medawar said she would like to see leeway in place so that anyone working through a drug addiction is provided a second chance. Lisa Phelps of the Lee Hill District said that the board should start a campaign directed at students and staff to combat drug use. 

Phelps requested signage in every teacher’s lounge, employee break room and at the school board office, among other places, detailing the dangers of drugs and as well as where one can receive help to overcome addiction. 

“Sometimes people just need to walk in and see it right in front of them,” Phelps said. 

Gillespie and Phelps initially requested third-party investigations into both incidents, but Guempel asked to allow human resources to conduct the Jackson inquiry because it is a part of the department’s job. Most board members said they would like for the criminal investigation to play out in Carter’s case before moving forward with an internal or external examination of the incident.

In other business, the board voted to renew the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool quote of $1.1 million. 

In 2020, the board executed a resolution to enter into a membership agreement with the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool, which provides coverage and risk management expertise yearly.  

The board also decided to table a vote on updating the student code of conduct until the June 10 meeting. The Code of Conduct Committee, which includes representatives from each school, reviewed the policy and recommended several edits for the 2024-25 school year. 

The edits included adding a self-defense element to protect students from discipline who were defending themselves in a fight and providing wiggle room in the enforcement of a rule mandating an automatic 10-day suspension for marijuana possession. Guempel cited examples of curious kindergartners taking the drug from home or older children being victims of another student placing the drug in their backpacks as reasons why flexibility is needed in the rule.  

Gillespie said she would like to see the code of conduct address what she considers the distraction of students dressing as dogs, cats, rabbits or other creatures as part of anthropomorphized personas called “furries.”

The board also tabled a vote on creating a separate classroom observation policy in addition to the visitor’s policy. The proposed classroom observation policy requires parents to give advance notice to administrators if they plan to sit in on a classroom session. 

The board voted to approve the first reading of proposed revisions to a policy on instructional and library materials and school libraries and media centers. Guempel noted during the discussion that many of the library books that were banned by former Superintendent Mark Taylor following committee reviews are back in schools — but not yet in circulation. Phelps referred to some of the works as “porn books.” 

The board’s vote included separate policies for libraries/media centers and instructional materials. 

The new policy states that a current list of instructional materials with sexually explicit content by grade and subject matter will be maintained on the SCPS website. Parents can opt their children out of any parts of the curriculum with sexually explicit material, and the school will provide an alternative lesson plan. 

The library policy mentions that the school division maintains a library media center to promote the intellectual, cultural, social and personal development of the student body and staff, and that media specialists are responsible for maintaining a comprehensive collection of resources and equipment in accordance with the board policy and established regulations supporting general interest, literacy and curriculum standards.  

Library media programs and resources will be continually modified to reflect the school community’s needs. 

The board voted to approve on first reading a new facilities rental policy. 

In new business, the board voted 6-1 to allow all employees off from work for the Juneteenth holiday on June 19. Students and some staff members were already off for the holiday, which was recognized at the state and federal levels in 2021. Gillespie voted against the motion, which was made by Belen Rodas of the Chancellor District. 

Gillespie wondered if everyone is off for every holiday, questioning “Is Grandparents Day considered a holiday?” 

Subscribe To Daily News Updates

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from The Free Press

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This