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Falmouth begins review of school drug, alcohol policy

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Falmouth begins review of school drug, alcohol policy

FALMOUTH — The School Board on Tuesday night discussed the time-line for making revisions to its alcohol and drug policy, and reviewed changes to the state policy on the use of physical restraints.

The drug-and-alcohol-policy review follows a summer when police responded to two parties involving Falmouth High School students and alleged underage drinking.

The first party on June 16, billed as a chem-free celebration of Falmouth's baseball and lacrosse state championships, ended with the arrest of one minor for administrative operating under the influence and two other minors being charged with possession of alcohol by consumption. The homeowners were summonsed for allowing minors to possess and consume alcohol.

Police responded to second party on June 23, also involving Falmouth High School students and arrested Seth Russell, 21, for furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol. Seven minors were charged with possession of alcohol.

The last revision of the alcohol and drug policy took place in the 2005-2006 school year and looked at the role of the School Department in investigating drug, alcohol or tobacco use on and off campus, and how to best use school resources to promote safe behaviors for students.

On Tuesday, Policy Committee Chairman Christopher Murry Jr. and High School Principal Gregg Palmer said a review committee of community members, students, parents, town officials, teachers, coaches, administrators and board members will work together through next March when a vote on a new policy is expected.

The addition of community members is a step not taken in the previous review of the policy and it is one that Murry said he believes will aid in the effectiveness of the policy.

“The role of the community and the role of the school are two important issues that are directly connected to the effectiveness of this policy,” Murry said.

Specifically the task force will look at where student behavior takes place, the policy for self-reporting, and will address how to discipline students who are “knowingly in the presence of alcohol/illegal substances” – something not dealt with in the current policy.

Work on creating the task force will begin this week and the board expects a first reading of the new policy sometime in February.

Board members also listened to a presentation by Drummond Woodsum attorney Eric Herlan about the sweeping statewide reform regarding the use of therapeutic restraint and seclusion.

“(This is a) broad new law and it applies to all school districts in the state and applies to schools wherever they may be with students,” Herlan said.

The new law applies to everyone in a school setting who has contact with students and totally rewrites the old rules.

The new definition of physical restraint says that restraint is “any intervention that restricts a student’s freedom of movement or normal access to his or her body and includes physically moving a student who has not moved voluntarily.”

School officials may only use restraint when there is an “imminent risk of physical injury or harm to that student or others and only if less restrictive interventions are deemed appropriate.”

Herlan also outlined guidelines for seclusion, which, like restraint, may only be used by school staff when there is an “imminent risk” to the child or others around them.

Polly Crowell, director of special education for Falmouth schools, said that while she understands the new policy, she has some questions that she will need to direct to Herlan for better understanding.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter @croninamber.