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Falmouth fine-tunes student drug, alcohol policies

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Falmouth fine-tunes student drug, alcohol policies

FALMOUTH — The School Board's policy committee presented has completed first drafts of five proposed drug and alcohol policies.

The committee's goal is for the board to conduct first readings of the revised policies later this month and in March.

According to Chris Murry Jr., chairman of the policy committee, five different policies are being drafted in the hope that they will work together to help students make appropriate choices about drugs and alcohol.

“(It's) a packaged approach, not just one policy," Murry said. "It's five policies that work together to create culture change.”

The policies, presented to the board on Feb. 5, are broken down into three different categories. Two of the policies deal with substance use on school property or at school-sponsored events, while two others address substance abuse surrounding co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. The final part of the package is a revision to the student code of conduct.

“We are trying to articulate those qualities and behaviors and attitudes that we expect out of our students to help foster young adults into productive citizens,” Murry said.

There has been one major change to the policy since public forums on the topic began early this year. Murry said the question of determining if students are “knowingly present” when drugs or alcohol are consumed – even they do not consume – is not on the table.

“It doesn't really allow us to fulfill our role as an educational institution to be using Facebook to find out what happened on Saturday night,” he said.

The policy changes will give students a clear pathway, Murry said, either taking a “severe penalty” or entering into a contract with the schools that could shorten a suspension or change the number of contests being missed (in the case of athletes) while adding community service or potential counseling.

Murry said the contracts are a way for the district to work with students to customize their punishment in order to ensure they are making safe, legal and ethical choices. He said this customization is akin to the way a parent might discipline different children and it is something not often seen in school policies.

“If you equate it to parenting, you don't discipline kids the same way, there isn't standardization ... you have to customize what the penalties are,” he said. “We are rejecting a straight, cookie-cutter way because it clearly has not worked in the past.”

He said it is important for the public to understand that the issue of drug and alcohol use among students is not a Falmouth-centric issue, but is being seen around the state and the country. School boards need to do their due diligence to keep students engaged in healthy behaviors, he added.

Murry said there aren't any major changes remaining in the wording of each policy; only small details that outline the philosophical statement the board hopes to make that need work.

“We are not trying to legislate behavior," he said, "but to incorporate what we expect into policy in a clear way."

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