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Lack of clear guidelines puts drug tests on hold

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By Kier Edison C. Belleza

Cebu City — The surprise drug test (SDT) for public elementary school teachers here has been temporarily put on hold, according to a Department of Education (DepEd) official.

Danilo Gudelosao, DepEd – Cebu City Division Assistant Schools Division Superintendent, said the lack of clear guidelines prompted the temporary suspension.

He added that it was also meant to give way for their central office to refine the guiding principles.

“We have temporarily suspended the drug testing (for public school teachers) because we would want to make things clear, especially that the head office is still finalizing the guidelines,” he said.

However, Gudelosao emphasized that this does not mean that the random drug testing will not resume, saying a government employee is required to undergo the screening.

The SDT, which started in September this year, has already conducted the tests on more than 200 out of the city’s 5,500 public school teachers.

At least 255 teachers and non-teaching personnel from 12 public schools have undergone the tests since the initiative was launched.

The teachers are from the following schools: Regino Mercado Elementary School, Regino Mercado Night High School, Alaska Mambaling Elementary School (AMES), Alaska Mambaling Night High School, Cantipla Integrated School, Tabunan Integrated School, Tagbao Elementary School, Tagbao-National School, Paril Elementary School, Paril National High School, Cambinocot Elementary School, and Cambinocot High School.

The results showed that no one was found positive of illegal drug use. Only a male teacher at AMES reportedly refused to undergo the test instituted by the City Office of Substance Abuse Prevention because he was “sick.”

The drug testing is mandated by DepEd Order No. 37 series of 2017 or the Deped Drug-Free Workplace Policy which was promulgated last July 31.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña, in a seperate interview, said the lack of clear guidelines is not enough reason for the city government to discontinue the drug screenings among public school teachers.

“If there’s a lousy teacher maybe because he’s on drugs, (it’s) the students (who) will suffer. Are they concerned of the welfare of the teachers or the welfare of the students? The worst thing that can happen is when the students don’t benefit from education because the teacher is a drunkard, a drug user,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, City Councilor Joy Augustus Young, who is also the deputy mayor for education matters, has asked the City Legal Office for a legal opinion on the city government’s legal basis to resume the SDTs.

“It is laid down in the Local Government Code that the city can hold a drug test even if DepEd would say it should be put off. But I want to make sure that we have a legal basis for that before we can proceed,” Young said.

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