High School athletes who are caught with alcohol, drugs or smoking cigarettes may face cumulative penalties if caught again, as a result of changes to the student handbook proposed to the School Committee Monday night.In addition, police may be invited to bring the K-9 unit to search for illegal drugs, if Acting Principal Mark Strout’s suggested addition to the handbook is finalized.
The School Committee unanimously accepted the changes in a first reading of proposed changes; a final vote is scheduled for the committee's next meeting, Aug. 13.
“We just want to keep our school safe,” said Strout, explaining the new availability of the police dog search unit, noting that a student on heroin could fall down the stairs and be injured.
“We don’t want to beat them into the ground,” said Athletic Director Jophn Sullivan, noting all kids make mistakes. But, he has been a longtime advocate of the cumulative rule to teach his athletes there are consequences for bad behavior.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has changed its rules, effective this July, to ensure that a student caught drinking, using tobacco or illegal drugs will be penalized. In the past, a student caught in his or her off-season could escape penalty. Now, the MIAA rules carry the penalty over to the athlete’s next sport season.
Although the MIAA allows a clean slate after a student serves the penalty,
local communities can impose tougher standards, Sullivan said, and he and Strout both want the cumulative record keeping of offenses.
For a first offense, the student is not allowed to play one-quarter of the season. For a second offense, a student is not allowed to play 60 percent of the season, Sullivan told the committee.
Students are expected to come to practice so that they can rejoin the team once their penalty is served.
“We don’t want to lose them. We want them to learn from the experience,” Sullivan said.
Penalties will also be imposed on students participating in other extra-curricula activities, such as the school play, not just athletics, Strout said.
School Committee member Bill Bates noted that students are found guilty before any evidence is offered of any wrong-doing, because of zero-tolerance rules, known in police parlance as “constructive possession” of alcohol or drugs.
“I have a problem with constructive possession,” said Bates. “It leaves an awful lot of discretion to the police officers and athletic directors.”
School Committee member Arthur Skarmeas, however, thought that such rules actually took away the discretion, since they don’t allow for interpretation at all.
Parents, of course, can send their children for a toxicology screening, Strout said. If it proved the child was using drugs or alcohol, it “helps me and the parents put a program in place.”
Drug searchesThe K-9 units could be called into the school to conduct drug searches at the principal’s invitation, Strout said.
Of course, such searches would not be on a whim, he assured the committee.
The K-9 unit, which has been brought into other high schools in the area, will add another level of prevention, Strout said.
Students will be asked to leave their backpacks and to go to the auditorium while the dog searches. If the dog stops at a particular bag, then the police must get a search warrant, even though the principal, who would accompany the police and dog on the search, is allowed to search any student.
“I have the right to search. They don’t,” Strout said. “Even if the police are with me, they have to get a search warrant.”
Strout also suggested that, in the interests of furthering community policing, that the K-9 unit should “come on down and say hello to the kiddos across the street,” indicating they may find some illegal substances in use there.
The middle school handbook has provisions about drugs and alcohol and consequences that mirror the high school handbook, also approved in a first reading by the School Committee Monday night.
The elementary school handbooks add a prohibition of flip-flop shoes, since they can be dangerous when children run. They also prohibit shoes with wheels or other articles of clothing that pose a safety hazard; too bare shoulders (spaghetti straps were specifically mentioned); T-shirts or other clothing with inappropriate phrases.
someone got sent home from the high school for wearing a tshirt that said "make cupcakes, not war"
is it just me, or is this ridiculous? protest dhs!