Senator George Runner (R-Antelope Valley) has introduced legislation to protect schools and taxpayers from drug offenders that are taking advantage of loopholes in California law. Senate Bill 1185 will ensure that school employees who are caught abusing illegal drugs and sent to a drug diversion program do not receive back-pay. “Any school employee caught abusing drugs who decides to avoid a conviction by admitting guilt and enter into a drug diversion program should not be rewarded by collecting back-pay. This fails to put students first and wastes tax dollars,” said Senator George Runner. “Unless we close this loophole courts are forced to require school districts to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to these drug offenders in back-pay.”
Senate Bill 1185 is sponsored by the Palmdale School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education and it would close the loophole that allows school employees, who are first-time drug offenders, to collect back-pay. Current law allows these drug offenders to receive back-pay because it provides first-time drug offenders the option of pleading guilty in order to enter a diversion program and ultimately have their record expunged. In these cases, there is no official conviction.
Two different court cases have enforced the literal meaning of current law and required the districts to provide back-pay. Although the courts recognized the situation was absurd they refused to stray from the literal meaning of the law and act as a super-legislature. The courts also recognized that the meaning of the education code was never intended to create a windfall for defendants who chose diversion instead of jail. One dissenting justice noted that the literal reading of the codes created a result “contrary to legislative intent, contrary to common sense, and contrary to our shared notions of justice.”
Roger Gallizzi, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel for the Palmdale School District, originally brought this to Senator Runner's attention. “I did not believe that this legal loophole represented the values of our community and Senator Runner agreed. We are extremely pleased that he has taken an interest and made an effort which will benefit all school districts across the state. This also reaffirms my belief in our representational government system; Senator Runner has listened to his constituents and has responded with action. We are very, very pleased.”