BREVARD COUNTY ― On March 23, the Brevard Public Schools (BPS) voted 3-2 to terminate Alison Enright from her position as an intensive reading instructor at Space Coast Junior/Senior High School in Cocoa.
After a workman's compensation incident involving a student, she tested positive for THC in her required drug test.
"The student was coming up the stairs and was supposed to be going down, so I redirected him to go down the stairs," said Ms. Enright. "He argued with me, hesitated and then pushed into me and knocked me down the stairs."
Ms. Enright has been teaching for 36 years.
"I was told to file a workers [compensation] claim. I called workers comp, they asked if I was on any medication. I did disclose at that I would test positive for THC because I'm on medical marijuana and I have my card. They couldn't have been nicer about it."
Ms. Enright has held a medical marijuana prescription since July of 2018.
After the birth of her third son, Ms. Enright experienced physical discomfort and pain that placed her on opioids. She's been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, cervical stenosis and osteoarthritis of the neck and spine among others.
"I was disabled. I was in a wheelchair for for about 10 years," she said. "I was on crutches and canes along with the wheelchair for a total of 15 years."
In 2016, Ms. Enright had to file a workers compensation claim after a fall. She tested positive for opioids and did not receive any punishment because it was prescribed by her doctor.
From 2002 on, Ms. Enright had various degrees of pain. Pain management doctors had her on 67 pills a day with three types of fentanyl, she explained.
Due to the severe addiction or overall effects of opioids, Ms. Enright worked with her doctor to be prescribed medical marijuana as an alternative for the highly addictive pharmaceutical pain medications.
"I was functioning, but that was about it," Ms. Enright said. "I needed assistance because of the pain. The opioids suppress the pain to a certain degree, but it's still there. It suppresses your receptors to it, but it also suppresses your personality. It suppresses my energy and my personality and that's been the most incredible thing since I went off the opioids and started medical marijuana. My personality returned, my energy, my enthusiasm for life."
With her medical marijuana prescription, Ms. Enright takes one 10 milligram gel tablet in the morning, and one at night as prescribed.
"It's been my miracle drug," she said. "Not only do I not have a wheelchair or any assisting devices, I walk, I run, I exercise and I'm healthy."
As a result of her termination, there are several routes that she can take to try and regain her position.
"We had two options in Ms. Enright's case and, unfortunately, the law is not on our side," said Vanessa Skipper, vice president of Brevard Federation of Teachers.
Marijuana is classified at the federal level as a Schedule I controlled substance. Medical marijuana, although legal at a state level, can still be classified within businesses and institutions as a Schedule I drug.
"Florida voters overwhelmingly voted medical marijuana as an amendment to the Florida constitution, but the way the law was written to go along with that basically gives employers the leeway to terminate employees still," said Ms. Skipper. "What's interesting about the law is it says 'may'. They don't have to. The district could choose to put a policy in place if they wanted to."
Ms. Enright is on an annual contract with the district. Professional Services Contract teachers are afforded more appeal options. This limits Ms. Enright's ability to be reinstated.
Currently, Ms. Enight is filing a grievance for her termination, claiming there was no just cause in her firing. If her grievance is denied, she will have a hearing with an arbitrator where they will present their case.
"Her firing was a moral travesty," Ms. Skipper said. "The school board has the chance to do the right thing, to be progressive, to figure out how to make this right and two of them were willing to do so, and we needed one more."
BPS has adopted policies for students who hold medical marijuana cards that was updated in 2019.
"The student medication policy and the employee drug use policy were actually adopted on the same day and updated on the same day in May of 2002 and 2003," said Ms. Skipper. "The student policy was updated in 2019 because a district was sued and parents wanted their children to be able to use medical marijuana."
As a result, district's received guidance by the Florida Department of Education for a policy to be put in place for medical marijuana. The policy for employees and teachers has not received the same overhaul.
"One of the excuses from the district was that they never received any guidance from the state to put an employee policy in place, well they also were never told that they couldn't," said Ms. Skipper.
As a result, teachers like Ms. Enright are caught in a unfortunate situation. She doesn't take her medication at work and with no reasonable suspicion to drug test her, both Ms. Enright and the union are fighting for reinstatement.
"Something can't be medicine for students and not medicine for employees," said Ms. Skipper.
Ms. Enright wants is to be back in the classroom. As someone who understands the difficulty in teaching students to pass standardized tests, she wishes to bring the core benefits of reading, imagination and wonder, back to students.
"We've taken a lot of the joy out of learning and the joy out of reading as well. My whole visibility has been to bring that joy back to the classroom," she said. "A lot of what I do is community based, getting them to work together, understand each other, accept differences and building their self-esteem."
Currently, a GoFund me has been set up to help Ms. Enright financially throughout the ordeal.
To support or donate to Mrs. Enright, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/teacherfiredforMedicalMarijuana