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Question of random drug testing arises after Bronx teacher dies of overdose

THE BRONX — If our region, and nation’s raging opioid crisis has taught us nothing else,  it is that addiction often hides in the shadows, destroying and claiming lives in the places where we would least expect.

Matthew Azimi, 36, is the latest example, a special education teacher, found dead Thursday night from an apparent drug overdose, locked inside a bathroom at PS X811 in the Bronx, with drug paraphernalia next to his body.

Azimi’s death refocusing attention on the challenge of identifying, and helping functioning addicts in the workplace, before it’s too late.

City Councilman Rafael Salamanca says the de Blasio Administration does not support his bill, which would require schools to keep on hand the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

“We’re getting resistance from the administration, and the board of education, telling us that the last couple of years, there has not been any overdoses among students,” said Councilman Salamanca.

If you are at home, wondering why the city does not randomly drug test public school teachers, the answer dates back 30 years to a New York State appellate court decision, in which a Long Island teacher’s union successfully argued random drug testing would constitute an invasion of privacy.

But that was long before the current opioid epidemic.

So is it time for a change – especially when it’s hard to tell who’s using in the workplace, and classroom?

Citing that court decision, city officials say the answer is still no.

A Department of Education spokesperson goes on to say,

“All teachers are subject to thorough background investigations before they are hired and must also be fingerprinted and receive security clearance from the Office of Personnel Investigation.”

City Public Advocate Tish James argues there’s a sound principle behind the city’s position to not randomly drug test teachers.

“So the random drug testing is usually after an incident, after the commission, after the alleged commission of a crime,” said James.