Lakeland Officials Mum on Bus Driver Failing Drug Test

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A bus driver for the Lakeland School District reportedly failed a random drug test earlier this month after returning from a morning route transporting students.

According to a district source, the unidentified female driver, who has worked for Lakeland since 2007, failed a breathalyzer test for alcohol on May 4 and was suspended May 8 after district officials received the test results.

The driver, one of 98 currently employed in Lakeland, had just concluded her assigned rounds that involved high school, middle school and elementary school students.

When pressed for specifics on the incident, Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Stone declined, but issued a statement.

“The District’s number one priority is the health and safety of our students and staff. All district bus drivers are subject to background checks and fingerprint clearance at the time of hire, as required by the State of New York,” Stone stated. “In addition to pre-employment screening, random drug and alcohol tests are administered, unannounced, throughout the school year for every school bus driver. While the District does not discuss the results of any random drug and alcohol test of its bus drivers, when a driver fails a random drug or alcohol test that driver is removed from service in accordance with applicable law, regulation and collectively negotiated agreements.”

According to a longtime bus driver, who asked not to be identified, drivers in the past sometimes were tested three to four times a year, but there was one stretch where no test was given for about five years. In addition, according to the bus driver, there were times when bus drivers were notified ahead of time by a dispatcher that a random drug test was pending.

The positive drug test stirred up memories in the district of an incident two years ago when on May 11, 2015 a 56-year-old bus driver for Lakeland, Mary Coletti, was charged with felony drunk-driving after sideswiping a telephone pole with 35 Walter Panas High School students on board.

That incident occurred at approximately 7 a.m., when Coletti hit a telephone pole on Red Mill Road. State Police said a breathalyzer test showed Coletti had a 0.13 percent blood alcohol content — 0.05 higher than the legal threshold for drunken driving.

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