The state Court of Appeals appears to have been on solid ground, ruling in favor of Shenendehowa school bus driver Cynthia DiDomenicantonio, fired after testing positive for marijuana use in a random drug test in October 2009.
The district says it maintained a zero-tolerance policy for drug use, but when push came to shove its contract didn’t specify that; instead, it provided for a series of lesser disciplinary measures for violations. And the district lawyer’s claim that firing was warranted because the driver had put students at risk was as dubious as the bus driver’s claim that she’d either inhaled secondhand smoke or unwittingly ingested marijuana-laced food.
The fact of the matter is that marijuana’s active ingredient stays in the blood for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months — mostly depending on how much and how often it’s smoked — but a smoker’s abilities aren’t legally impaired for more than several hours. The district didn’t claim DiDomenicantonio was stoned while driving, so the assertion that she had endangered students on the basis of there being evidence of prior pot use in her blood was quite a stretch.
Unfair though it may seem, a school district should be entitled to impose an iron-clad zero-tolerance drug policy on its employees, particularly on any whose actions might impact student safety. But that’s not what Shen maintained — at least not according to its contract. In view of that fact, the penalty of a six-month suspension that the state’s highest court affirmed for her seems strict enough for a first offense.