School Board proposes drug policy changes

March 08, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Students, teachers and visitors would no longer be able to smoke on school grounds after hours or on field trips if the Washington County School Board adopts a proposal to change 1982 drug policies.

The proposal also would require police to cite and possibly fine smokers who are caught for a third time, would add look-alike drugs to the policies and would solidify the current practice of trying to help students kick bad habits instead of just punishing them.

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Another change would allow principals to begin drug investigations based on suspicions of possession, use or distribution. The current policy requires an allegation of a problem.

Guidance Supervisor Joe Millward and health resource teacher Bonnie Forsyth presented the draft policies to School Board members at a meeting last Tuesday.


Millward said the changes are needed because some of the old policies differ from actual practices.

Among the changes, the proposals would ban smoking for students, teachers and visitors on school grounds, Forsyth said. That includes the School Board's central office, warehouses, garages and other buildings under its authority. Currently, smoking is allowed after hours.

"The big question everyone wants to ask is, who's going to enforce it?" Forsyth said.

She said parents present at sporting events or other after-hours activities would enforce it by telling students to stop smoking or leave.

"We would not be calling police to come in and take smokers off the property," Forsyth said.

The new rules also forbid smoking during school-sponsored field trips. "If you take a group of kids to the Inner Harbor, they should not be smoking," Forsyth said.

Students caught smoking anywhere could be sent to stop-smoking classes as an alternative to being suspended, according to the new proposals.

"It's not just punitive. We want to help the kid kick a habit," Millward said.

Not all of the proposals are softening punishment. One would require police to issue citations and possibly fine smokers caught for a third time.

"The law says a citation may be issued," Forsyth said. "We are asking that it will."

On drug issues, the proposals would:

* Require that students caught with drugs be sent to the county health department for an assessment. That is done now but is not required. The department recommends a plan to end the student's drug use.

* Allow principals to request that police pursue an intervention, rather than immediately issue a citation. An intervention may or may not result in a citation.

* Allow principals to suspend students for more than the three days currently required.

* Cover "look-alike" drugs for the first time. A student who brings a bag of oregano to school to sell as marijuana, for example, could be disciplined. "We need to intervene on that behavior before it does escalate into something more serious," Millward said.

In addition to changing drug policies, discipline procedures also are being rewritten.

The draft divides offenses into three categories.

The first involves "disruptive behaviors" such as truancy and fighting. Suggested responses include mediation and counseling.

The second contains "major infractions" such as hazing and can result in police intervention or expulsion.

The third includes all offenses that carry mandatory legal punishment, such as arson, battery or bomb threats.

Committees of law enforcement and health department representatives, parents, teachers and other community members drafted the new discipline policies. The School Board is expected to vote on them March 30.

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