GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Northern Colorado school district has changed its procedures for alcohol testing after the district fired a teacher who was suspected of being drunk in the classroom, only to have an administrative law judge rule the district’s alcohol testing procedure was flawed and “there is insufficient other evidence that the teacher was intoxicated.”
The ruling came in the case of Glennis Hughes, a teacher with the Greeley-Evans School District 6 for 23 years. Last May 8 a coworker reported smelling alcohol on Hughes’ breath at about 9 a.m. during the school day. A school security officer was summoned and administered a preliminary breath test, or PBT, which showed Hughes blood alcohol level at .132, well above the .08 legal limit for driving drunk in Colorado.
Hughes lawyer, Charles Kaiser, told CBS4 Hughes was “absolutely not” drunk at school.
“I think they made a mistake, that’s all I’m going to say,” said Kaiser.
But based on the results of the PBT the school district fired Hughes after she refused to resign. She appealed her dismissal to an administrative law judge with the State of Colorado’s Office of Administrative Courts. CBS4 has now obtained a copy of the previously unreleased 13-page decision which resulted in Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood recommending the school district re-hire Hughes.
Norwood ruled that the way the school district administered the PBT test was dramatically flawed.
“But the result of the PBT is not reliable evidence as is required,” wrote Norwood.
He wrote that the reading given by the “Alco-Sensor” “is unreliable and inadmissible.”
The decision reveals that several coworkers of Hughes reported they smelled alcohol on her breath the morning of May 8. However several other coworkers said they did not detect any alcohol aroma coming from Hughes on the morning in question.
The teacher denied she had anything to drink that morning but said the night before she had one mixed drink at a bar with coworkers, followed by three glasses of wine at home with her husband before she went to sleep.
According to testimony before the ALJ, three days after the school incident, Glennis Hughes and a union representative met with a school district human resources officer, Kevin Aten.
“Mr. Aten told the teacher in the presence of her representative that if she would agree to resign, he would not report the May 8 events to the state Department of Education for action against her teaching license. However, if she did not resign, he said he would report. The teacher did not agree to resign,” according to the report. “There is insufficient evidence that the teacher was intoxicated or that she used, possessed or was under the influence of alcohol during the work day of May 8, 2013,” concluded Norwood.
Based on his decision, the school board voted to re-hire Hughes in October and she resumed teaching Oct. 2 at Greeley West High School.
“Our defense was that she was not intoxicated as many people who saw her that morning testified,” said attorney Kaiser. “I don’t think our teachers are partying at work.”
Theresa Myers, Director of Communications for the Greeley-Evans School District, told CBS4 she could not speak about the Hughes case because “it is still considered a personnel issue.” But she said, “We did update our policies and procedures in October regarding the testing of personnel suspected of using alcohol while at work.”
Myers said an initial Breathalyzer test is still conducted but if the test registers positive, the employee is then taken to an independent lab where a second, more scientific test is conducted, a test that can be admissible in court proceedings.
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com