FALMOUTH — After more than a year of work, the School Board has overhauled the School Department’s policy on drug and alcohol use by students to reflect a more current cultural environment.
The revised policy, approved this month, provides more flexible options for punishment of students who violate the alcohol and drug code than the previous, strictly punitive approach, said board member Chris Murry Jr., who led the redesign.
“There were a lot of gaps and gray areas in the previous policy and things that just didn’t make sense today,” Murry said, adding that the policy was last updated about six years ago, but that review was not as comprehensive at the new version.
Murry said parts of the policy were outdated, including a distinction between tobacco and other types of drugs, which are now combined as one group.
The new policy also places more responsibility on students who are or want to be in school leadership roles, he said.
“They are expected to maintain the code as a model,” Murry said. Under the new rules, in general, students would not be allowed to be in leadership roles, such as class president or captain of a sports team, if they violate the policy.
And although the new policy is stricter regarding student leaders, it also allows for more individualized punishments, if students desire.
Murry said students can work with the schools to develop a custom plan that could include a combination of things, such as community service, drug counseling or a suspension from a certain number of games.
“This isn’t a solely punitive approach,” he said. “It’s about helping students make the right choices and leading them to continue to make the right choices later on in life.”
While the review of the drug and alcohol policy began in February 2012, it was brought to the forefront of the school policy discussions after a high school party in June 2012. The party was celebrating the school’s lacrosse and baseball teams’ championships, but ended in alcohol-related charges for party-goers and for the parents who hosted the party.
Criminal charges against the parents who hosted the party were resolved in February with restitution and community service after a jury in the case deadlocked.
Murry said while the party did not prompt the policy discussion, it “influenced that we really needed a good role definition.”
“We as an institution can provide direction for responsibility and lead students to make the right decisions, but parents have to have ownership for their kids,” he said, noting the new policy allows for more collaboration with all stakeholders, including parents.
The new rules reflect that effort and fit more appropriately with modern culture, Murry said.
“Individual problem-solving provides more of a complete picture of who the student is,” he said. “Kids aren’t cookie cutters and this not the 1950s.”