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For the week of July 10 - 16, 2002

News

Tougher drug policy sent to school board


"We felt there was a need for a stronger policy, but we also wanted to get kids some help." 

- JIM LEWIS, Blaine County School District superintendent


By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School Board during its Tuesday meeting got its first official look at a new drug policy that calls for tougher penalties for first-time offenders but more opportunities to obtain help and counseling.

Superintendent Jim Lewis said the proposed policy sent to the board is built on the premise of keeping the schools drug and alcohol free by using stronger penalties for violations and providing counseling alternatives.

"We felt there was a need for a stronger policy, but we also wanted to get kids some help," said Lewis.

First-time offenders for possession and use of drugs and alcohol on school grounds and at school-sponsored activities will now be given a 30-day school suspension which can be reduced to five days with treatment, parental involvement in counseling and community service.

The current policy calls for a mandatory five-day school suspension, with no provisions for treatment.

"You’re still looking at five days out of school for the first offense, but we’re asking for more responsibility from the student and parents to have those five days," said Dr. Lewis.

The second offense is a one-year school suspension, but under the new policy the expulsion can be reduced to one trimester with the required education, parental involvement and treatment. The current policy calls for a one-year suspension with no strings.

The third use-and-possession offense stays the same, a mandatory one-year suspension, and that’s the same penalty for the first offense for manufacture and sale of drugs.

A key provision of the new policy is a "reasonable suspicion" clause that comes directly from action by the Idaho Legislature earlier this year.

If a teacher, for example, suspects a student is under the influence, the teacher can document the student’s behavior on a checklist and send a referral form to school administrators—who will start established procedures to deal with the problem.

Blaine County teachers will receive training in drug identification procedures before the start of the 2002-03 school year, Lewis said.

"We are trying not to accuse a kid without probable cause," he said.

The proposed "Behavior and Discipline" policy applying to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other controlled substances in Blaine County schools was crafted through the work of a 35-person community committee that has been meeting since last November.

Lewis said the "most compelling" testimony in favor of strengthening the school district’s drug and alcohol policies came from students themselves during a two-hour meeting in Hailey in February.

"Our committee listened to 24 students from the district’s four secondary schools. They told us they would like to have a stronger policy," Lewis said.

Random drug testing "has not been proposed and is not on the agenda," Lewis said, despite the June 27 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld drug testing for students in extracurricular activities.

If the school board approves the new district-wide drug policy at its August meeting, it will be effective for the 2002-03 year, Lewis said.

Still unresolved are any changes to the Code of Conduct for athletes.

"We felt we had to work on our base policy before we did anything in the activities area," Lewis said.

"We still have two subcommittees working on activities—looking at the Code of Conduct—and secondly at our curriculum—what we need to do to beef up our curriculum and make sure kids get a good drug education."

The Code of Conduct came under public scrutiny last fall when an off-campus party resulted in 20 Wood River High student athletes being suspended from four different school activities because of violations of the Code of Conduct and Health.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.