District Fails To Report Positive Drug Test

Bus driver will appeal termination

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The Payson Unified School District could face citation after failing to report the positive results of a drug test of one of its employees.

Cocaine showed up in the urinalysis (UA) of Payson School District bus driver/mechanic and assistant football coach, Bryan Parkerson in late January.

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As hundreds of children climb aboard Payson school buses every weekday, parents trust district officials to ensure their safety. However, a bus driver tested positive for cocaine in January, but the results went unreported.

But the school district didn't disclose their findings to the Department of Public Safety right away.

According to DPS Supervisor of Pupil Transportation Vicki Barnett, school officials violated state law by neglecting to report the presence of cocaine in Parkerson's system found during the Jan. 20 UA.

"We found out (about the failed test) when Bryan called and asked to know his status," Barnett said. "He told us, not the district."

By law, DPS is required to revoke the certification of any school bus driver who tests positive on a drug test.

Parkerson's certification wasn't cancelled until Feb. 1, after he phoned DPS, Barnett said.

"(Director of Support Operations) Joe (Martin) told me to call Vicki to see what was going on with my certification," Parkerson said.

If district officials had contacted DPS immediately, Parkerson's driving certification would have been revoked that day rather than six days later.

"(Certification) should have been canceled quicker than it was," Barnett said.

Martin said he learned Jan. 24 that Parkerson, his brother-in-law, had failed the test and -- because of their family relationship --Martin immediately referred the situation to school superintendent Herb Weissenfels.

"There was a possible conflict of interest," Martin said. "The superintendent agreed to deal with these kinds of things if they should come up."

Martin admitted he should have made contact with DPS.

"I will say I should have followed up," he said.

But Weissenfels defended the district's position, saying he believed the results of the tests had already been reported to DPS.

"The date given to me was Jan. 26," he said.

According to DPS Lt. Michael Lockhart, state laws do not dictate who should report test failures to DPS. Rather, he said, that responsibility falls on the individual districts.

Parkerson was placed on administrative leave Jan. 24 by Weissenfels, but then returned to work Feb. 2. records show.

Parkerson continued to work at the district, but did not drive busses, until he was notified of his termination April 18.

"I did general maintenance and jumped through all the hoops I was asked before being wrongfully terminated," Parkerson said. "They've taken away my life."

The former coach and driver claimed the test results were invalid.

"They botched the test; it was bogus," he said.

Parkerson also said he took a level two -- a more stringent test -- fewer than 24 hours after he learned he failed a test and it came back clean.

Martin confirmed Parkerson's claim saying, "All his tests have been clean except that one."

Parkerson and Martin traveled to Phoenix April 15 to appeal his license revocation to an administrative law judge.

The recommendation from the judge is not expected to be announced until next week.

At an April 25 meeting, the school board officially ratified Parkerson's 10-Day Notice Letter of Termination.

The former coach and driver now wonders why he was allowed to continue to work for almost three months before being fired.

"I went to guidance counseling like they asked and did everything I was told to do to keep my job," he said. "Then they fired me."

Whether DPS will reprimand the school district has not yet been decided.

"We have not discussed that here," Lockhart said. "But Payson did not report (the drug test failure) and they could be cited for that."

Timeline of events

Jan. 20 -- Parkerson takes random drug test.

Jan. 24 -- Positive test results reported to district. Parkerson put on administrative leave.

Feb. 1 -- Parkerson calls DPS; his drivers certification is revoked.

Feb. 2 --arkerson returns to work with limited duties.

April 14 -- School board meets to discuss Parkerson issues.

April 15 -- Parkerson appeals his case to an administrative law judge.

April 18 -- Parkerson is told he has been fired.

April 25 -- School board ratifies 10-Day Notice Letter.

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