BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Brevard County School Board voted Tuesday to terminate a teacher for using medical marijuana, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Though medical marijuana has been legalized in Florida, it remains a “schedule 1” narcotic at the federal level, placing it in the same category as heroin, LSD and methamphetamines.
In order to receive certain federal grants, the district said it must be a drug-free workplace. To meet the federal definition, the district can’t allow teachers to use marijuana, School Board General Counsel Paul Gibbs said.
The school district has had a policy since 2019 allowing students to use medical marijuana, the school board did not address the issue for teachers.
Allison Enright, a teacher at Space Coast Junior/Senior High School, disclosed her medical marijuana use when she took a drug test after an injury at work. A student shoved her on a flight of stairs after she corrected him for disobeying directional hallway rules designed to limit face to face contact to slow the spread of COVID-19. Enright said she had no idea her medication violated the district’s policy, which has not been updated since 2003, and says teachers can’t use “illegal drugs,” without specifically mentioning marijuana prescribed by a doctor.
Enright said she takes a pill containing THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, twice a day. Before taking medical marijuana, she said she took opiods and sometimes had to use a wheelchair due to several health conditions causing pain and weakness.
“I want to make it clear: I don’t do drugs,” Enright said, addressing the board during the public comment period. “I don’t smoke pot. I don’t get high. … I love teaching. It’s not just what I do, it’s who I am. I have been at a loss without my students and colleagues. Space Coast high is my family, and I want to go back. Please, let me go back home.”
All board members expressed regret at having to discuss terminating Enright, who had several colleagues testify to her work record at the meeting. However, the board upheld the school district’s recommendation to fire Enright in a 3-2 vote. Board Vice Chair Matt Susin and member Jennifer Jenkins voted against the firing.
“I can’t tell you how unfortunate it is that this happened,” board member Cheryl McDougall said. “I wish we could turn back the clock. But again, I feel like I’m bound to follow (my constitutional duty).”
During the hour-long discussion, Susin and Jenkins proposed multiple motions to try to find an alternative to firing Enright but failed to gain ground with the other board members. Susin first moved to petition the state attorney for guidance.
Jenkins argued that the district should discipline Enright short of termination. Susin agreed; seizing on a provision allowing rehab as a consequence for violating the district’s drug policy, he moved to order Enright to stop taking the medical marijuana and find an alternative treatment plan. Other members expressed concern that doing so would set a precedent that would make it hard to fire teachers for violating the drug policy in the future.
“We can sit there and say that somebody is going to go take this precedent, that the union’s gonna go find all the drug addicted teachers inside the district that are busted … Or we can say, this is our teacher, she’s a darn good teacher, and we’re going to protect her,” Susin said. “And that’s what this is about.”
Susin then moved to stall the teacher’s discipline until the board could update its policy to address medical marijuana, but that motion also failed.
Board Chair Misty Belford said she, too, would like to see the policy updated to prevent this from happening again, but that the board still needed to terminate Enright.
Enright will have a hearing before the board scheduled within 60 days.