Teachers who abuse drugs or alcohol endanger not only their health and personal relationships; they also put at risk their professional career, the school’s integrity and the welfare and academic futures of their students. Ultimately, addiction or alcoholism can destroy in short order a teaching career that took years – even decades – to build. Fortunately, professional drug rehab and alcohol treatment centers can provide the tools and resources needed for a recovering educator to return to the classroom and positively impact the lives of his or her students.
Teachers are often held to higher professional and moral standards than many other groups because of their responsibility for the safety and intellectual futures of America’s children. However, it is important to remember that addiction is a clinical, neurological disease and that teachers are only human – prone to mistakes like everyone else but nevertheless deserving of the compassion and support needed to achieve lasting sobriety. In fact, The American Society of Addiction Treatment defines addiction in a way that makes it apparent this is a human condition, not one of moral or professional virtue:
“a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry… This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.” (1)
When coworkers, students and the community realize a teacher’s substance abuse issues, the teacher will likely be faced with several different reactions. Some may be concerned, supportive and willing to help through the tough recovery ahead. Others may feel betrayed and angry, thinking the teacher should not be allowed to continue working with children or adult students – even after successfully completing a drug rehab program.
Public reaction to a teacher’s reported substance abuse problems will depend on their prior standing in the community, as well as how much the drug abuse negatively impacted the lives of coworkers and students. Reassessing and repairing these and other relationships will be one focus of treatment during drug rehabilitation, and in some cases employers, family members and other people close to the educator may become an active part of ongoing recovery efforts.
For some, the fact that the United States does not have a nationwide policy on random drug testing for teachers is a serious issue. However, any teacher suspected of drug or alcohol abuse or exhibiting behavior unbecoming of an educator can be terminated from their position with relative ease. But if treatment is sought before disciplinary action renders them ineligible, there are certain laws in place that may protect and preserve a teacher’s employment.
The Family Medical Leave Act entitles qualifying employees in public or private elementary and secondary schools to a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year if they are “unable to work because of a serious health condition.” (2) In most cases a serious health condition includes addiction and/or alcoholism, which are widely considered to be potentially fatal diseases by many in the healthcare and medical industries.
Additionally, new protections were put in place in 2008 to expand previous laws meant to protect the availability and affordability of insured substance abuse treatment:
“The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements (such as co-pays, deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as visit limits) applicable to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits.” (3)
Fortunately, these federal protections mean that many teachers who are struggling with drug addiction can get the help they need without sacrificing their career or economic standing. To find out for yourself right now, call the number at the top of your screen for a professional, confidential consultation. Taking action on your own initiative is precisely what is required to salvage the life you’ve built. But if you don’t call, we can’t help.
(1) Definition of Addiction – American Society of Addiction Medicine – 2012
(2) Leave Benefits: Family and Medical Leave – United States Department of Labor
(3) The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) – United States Department of Labor – January 29, 2010