The Next Big Thing: Drug & Alcohol Policy

The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting on September 15, 2014, as well as the Finance Committee and Policy Committee Meetings. All Board Members were in attendance.

During the Regular Meeting, the Board approved all listed recommended action items.

The First Reading of Policy 0006.1 “Attendance at Meetings Via Electronics” and 708 “Lending of School Owned Equipment and Books” were removed from the agenda. The Policy Committee determined more discussion was needed.

On the vote to approve the Parameters Resolution for the 2010A, 2010B and 2011 Series Bonds, Sam Ganow asked if we had shopped prices for the cost with other firms. The answer was we have not.

On the vote to approve the agreement with ATI Holding, LLC for athletic training services, Sherri Milton had several questions regarding included vs billable hours. While the item was passed, those answer will not be answered until the next Board Session.

Drug & Alcohol Policy and Extracurricular Activities

137163674During the Policy Committee Meeting, two parents attended and voiced concerns about the District’s “zero tolerance” drug and alcohol policy, as it related to athletics. The parents believed there were some inconsistencies between the Student Handbook and School Policy, and that both were riddled with ambiguity.

The Committee is working on creating a drug testing policy modeled after Lampeter-Strasburg School District’s Drug Screening Policy. There seemed to be a general consensus among those in attendance that an overall look at our drug and alcohol policy and procedures needs to be closely reviewed.

The intent of the Committee is to, with community discussion, create the strictest 24/7/365 Drug and Alcohol Policy allowable by law. However, there is no intent to “criminalize” student mistakes or misjudgments, but to provide reasonable consequences along with getting students the help they may need. Abuse of drugs and alcohol is a Student Safety issue this Committee, and the entire Board, takes very seriously.

Budget Timeline

The Finance Committee will have a Preliminary Budget review on November 17th, and then the Board is expected to adopt a resolution authorizing the Proposed Budget Display and Advertising on December 8th. A resolution approving the Preliminary Budget & Authorizing Referendum Exception or opt-out resolution will be on January 19, 2015.

It is expected that the District’s index limit will be 2.4 – 2.5%. However, the Administration intends to ask the Board to authorize the application to exempt the District from this tax increase limit.

Nepotism vs Cronyism

Lancaster Online reporter Debbie Wygent, wrote her article, about yesterday’s meeting, focussing on the Board vote on the first read of several Nepotism Policies. She wrote,

At a work session on Sept. 8, board president Lisa Bowman said the school board decided to give the nepotism issue top priority for review following recent allegations made by board member Tim Alexander that nepotism was a factor in awarding a security contract to Signal 88 of Parkesburg.

However, Bowman said Monday the board had reviewed nepotism policies in spring before Alexander’s allegations.

Bowman said nepotism — favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives — was not a factor in the vote to go with Mango’s firm.

This really needs to be addressed.

  1. I don’t know what Ms Bowman did and did not say to Debbie Wygent, but the Nepotism Policy was being reviewed because it related to the Sexual Abuse Policy that was recently updated. It had nothing to do with Signal 88.
  2. The Nepotism Policy had its first look back in May or June, before the Signal 88 controversy. Never once, in any meeting, was it stated the policy was being reviewed in relation to any “allegations” or favoritism in relation to Signal 88.
  3. When the Nepotism Policy was first reviewed, I noted that it only related to favoritism granted to relatives and romantic relationships. I had asked for the inclusion of language prohibiting cronyism, the practice of favoritism toward friends and associates. That recommendation received little interest, and language prohibiting and discouraging cronyism was never added to the policy.

I personally would think that if there was a serious interest on avoiding allegations of favoritism that we would have the will to develop policy to address it in all its forms. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Octorara Area School District does not currently have any policy prohibiting favoritism based on social, business, or political friendships.

~ Addendum ~

What Lisa Bowman Did and Did Not Say
Added 18-September-2014

I mentioned above that I did not know (at the time I wrote this blog post) what Ms Bowman did and did not say to Debbie Wygent. I do now.

On September 9th, the Lancaster Online Correspondant emailed Policy Committee Members making a general statement about the policies they update every month, and giving them the opportunity to comment. The only specific question asked was, “Is or has nepotism ever been a problem at Octorara?”

Lisa Bowman responded stating that the policies up for first reading in September, including the policies on nepotism, were all a follow up from Policy 806 “Child/Student Abuse,” approved in January 2014.

Ms Bowman informed Wygent that when the Board approved Policy 806, it was with the intent of reviewing the additional policies referenced. Some of those policies were reviewed and approved in June, and the ones currently on the agenda are the remaining referenced policies.

It was specifically stated to Wygent that the policy review is not due to any current issue or concern. It was just a follow through on policy review, and she was given a copy of the January Board Minutes.

Ms Bowman became very upset with the many inaccuracies from the Lancaster Online article, not only the false statements attributed to her. When the article came to her attention, she immediately contacted both the correspondent and spoke with the Editor.

Revisions were made on the article, but Ms Bowman remains concerned Lancaster Online continued to omit the true reason why the nepotism policy, along with the others, are being reviewed. She stated, “It’s disappointing that when we provide factual info (or at least proof from the minutes and I told them to watch the video of the meetings too), that they ignore that.”

17 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing: Drug & Alcohol Policy

  1. There is no consistent policy at this time at Octorara. You have students who have been kicked off of a team sport because a parent or student showed coaches pictures that were on social media. I know one of the students was holding a cup in the picture. Not only is this an assumption of illegal activities, we are allowing a parent or student to do this to an Octorara student/taxpayer. We should ask ourselves what was the reason? Were they concerned about the student or did they just want their child to get that students starting position on the team or maybe the student just wasn’t liked by whomever brought the picture to the coaches attention. You have students kicked off of soccer and football and some clubs because of something that happened outside of school on a weekend. Those students should be dealing with their parents and the punishments that were given from their parents. These are all good students and good kids who are being treated completely unfairly and damaging their senior year for making a mistake. Somehow this is out of control and completely unfair to these students. The school shouldn’t be involved in what happens outside of school. If there is something that happens on school grounds by all means consequences should be given out. Leave it up to the parents to parent their children out side of school. The thought of a public school giving random drug test and alcohol test for no reason at all seems insane to me and unconstitutional. Octorara school should hold their staff to the same standards they do their students. This is a very slippery slope you are headed down. Parents of Octorara need to take this very seriously and realize your child maybe next!!!

  2. Also found this in the student handbook pg 8 under athletic philosophy:
    “However, participation in athletics is a privilege, not a right. Because these students are in a unique position to represent our school, we expect that they will maintain certain academic and behavioral standards. Students who are not meeting these standards will not be eligible to practice and/or play until such time as these deficiencies have been addressed”

    And this on pg 11:
    “Any member of an athletic team guilty of tobacco use while in training on the first offense will be given 1 day suspension (school policy). On the second offense he/she will be dismissed from the team for the season. Any member of an athletic team guilty of drinking alcoholic beverages or using illegal substances (to include steroids), while in training, will, on the first offense, be dismissed from the team for the season. On the second offense he/she will not be allowed to participate in sports for a calendar year.”

    It does not give a definition/description of “in training”.

  3. I understand they are representing our school. Maybe a few game suspension would be a better punishment. I don’t think its fair to ruin a senior year for a mistake. I don’t think its fair for parents or students to turn in pictures found on social media and then the coaches cutting players for those pictures found. The potential for abuse is so far reaching. You could target anyone you wanted. I know the student who was cut didn’t even post the picture someone else did. I do think everyone should be smarter about what they post on social media. It seems like a witch hunt to me. I know students who aren’t allowed to play on one sport are on another sport during the same season. The policy is INCONSISTENT!!!!

    • I may be the odd man out on why I support a Drug Screening Policy but, as a School Board Member, I have little concern over image. This is not the NFL.

      I am approaching this as a Student & School Safety Issue. Teens do drugs for a whole list of reasons that have nothing to do with peer pressure or just the pleasure of doing them… these include self-esteem, stress, escapism, and mental illness. These kids need help because they have bigger issues related to being bullied, mentally or physically abuse, keeping unspeakable secrets, dealing with family economic issues, and more…. all issues and causes for even greater issues like violence and suicide… and the infamous “active shooter” scenario.

      If we approach this issue from simply a moral issue, we fail the children. However, it is also the responsibility of a good education to teach what it means to be an ethical person, and teach children what are and are not accepted social and community standards. The illegal use of drugs and alcohol is not the sole governance of parents, which is why society has created laws against their use by minors. There is a three-prong approach to creating a good person… good parenting, a good education, and a good community. It is the District’s responsibility for setting up reasonable consequences for bad behavior.

  4. I am sure if a child has a drug or alcohol issue the parents and the school and the guidance office already knows about it and I hope are helping in anyway they can. This isn’t about that. This is about a student being cut from a sport because a parent or student turned a picture in of them that they searched and found on social media. It is a witch hunt. Say for instance I wanted to target a specific religious affiliation, a specific nationality or any demographic, under the current policy as it stands, I could search through my child’s twitter feeds and have any of those groups removed from sports and clubs for nothing more then holding a cup in their hand and assumptions of illegal activities. No one is addressing the fact that this is what happened. We are the first generation that has to deal with social media both as parents and as students and parents or students turning in pictures of something that happened in the summer when school isn’t in session is wrong on so many levels. The policy as it stands doesn’t work.

    • I agree with you that proper safeguards need to be in place to ensure our drug and alcohol policy does not get misused. However, I believe it is wrong to assume that the District or parents do know or accept when a child has a problem or not. A Drug Screening Policy lessens the reliance on things like Facebook photos, rumors, false allegations, or the notion that birds of a feather is any type of proof.

    • You make a broad assumption that the parents are not turning a blind eye or enabling their children through a lack of consequences. We have several shinning examples that live in our immediate community who have failed their children on holding them accountable for their bad decisions / poor choices – which inevitably impact not just their family but their community as well. Underage drinking and drug use at any age are illegal behaviors that require punishment beyond the parent / child relationship.

  5. I don’t think students, or teachers should be abusing alcohol or drugs, but I don’t agree with the drug testing from a financial point of view. We can’t afford to put cheese on a cracker, but we have money to spend on singling students out that have a substance abuse problem with drug testing?

    It is a waste of money in my opinion, and we shouldn’t allow the rights of all the students (not just the sports students) to be infringed, and then singled out for public display. What happens if we find out half the student body are drug abusers and we kick them out? I guess the rate of having more students joining the district will go way down and all the extra buildings we have will be empty. If you are a parent and you think your children are abusing drugs and alcohol help them or get them help. There are many programs out there that will help. What are the legal ramifications of false accusations against a student for abusing drugs?

    Taxes will still go up regardless, so why complain about anything at this point in time.

  6. As a graduate from Octorara i loved the fact that we were small, now attending a small catholic college i am having a terrible time thinking about that fact that my 8 year old nephew who will one day be wearing that beautiful soccer jersey will one day have to be drug tested by the school. I understand that people and especially parents don’t want to see their kids do bad things, i certainly do not want to one day see my child in that position, but agreeing with what jonkstar22 said, there are more important things that the schools money could go towards. Perhaps my ideology of this topic comes from seeing all that is wrong with the school in the recent years, like being feed GRADE D BEEF at the cafeteria and equipment/electronics being out of date you could think that this money should go towards that. Jesus christ there are kids in the COMMUNITY where the schools lunch may be their only meal all day!!! And getting feed 4 chicken nuggets with a side of applesauce is not enough to fill a growing teenager. But of course, just like any other business, the higher up superintendent and similar positions can never cut down their own paychecks. Every contract renovation is a higher wage for that position, and once again, as a former student, we know the rumors of every teacher and office person. I guess something that the school board chooses not to discuss.

    But back to the drug testing, as a public school i believe that is not our position take care of but rather to help with. The parents should be capable to get their children on track, the school should rather have guidelines and be able to get parents help with programs like they have at college. I am aware that college is not the same as a public school but attaining a cathlolic when we first began i felt like their ways of dealing with stuff was appropriate. Even though we are dealing with teenagers we sometimes forget that they as well have rights! Just because they are younger doesn’t at all mean that we can take their VOICES AND OTHER RIGHTS AWAY! Yes drugs are bad but drug testing the students! Really? We make to much noise at our own peep rally and we get told to be quiet.

    • I understand your point that it’s the parents role to punish the child, but what happens if the parent chooses to do nothing? I’m not a huge fan of drug tests, but there are cases where it is justified. School sports are a privilege. If you’re suspected of drug use, the school is obligated to test you if only to protect themselves against litigation.

    • I do agree with that! The one thing I can’t get past is a recent conversation in which it was said there was no money for improving K-3 Reading programs or reducing K-5 class sizes, but then for non-educational items (like drug testing or armed security) the District just adds it to the budget and cost is not a factor.

      In principle, I agree with the drug testing program. However, my vote may just come down to economics. The District has wasted a lot of money on things that have not improved overall education… like expanding the campus, purchasing 50 acres of land, building an unnecessary school, sinking the District into debt.

      Anyway… the PA School Performance Profiles scores for 2013-2014 were suppose to be released yesterday, October 1st. According to the PA Dept of Ed, schools are still reviewing and verifying their data, and a new date for release has not been set. The District should have preliminary numbers but neither the Board nor the public has not been made aware of them. So, the moment I see they have gone public I will put them here, as I did last year.

  7. Octorara should start by breathalyzing students before school dances. This will alleviate students drinking before dances. There are many school districts that do this already. Octorara spending a tremendous amount of money to drug test student athletes without probably cause isn’t going to change anything at all. I am all for a drug free/alcohol free school however drug testing the athletes isn’t going to change other issues going on.

    • The Drug Testing Policy being proposed is to qualify to participate in all extracurricular activities, not just sports. The policy would also include those students who drive to school, The way it has been discussed, I do believe the random drug testing would be required of students who wish to qualify to go to dances. Breathalyzing students before school dances, or even other events, is a good idea though.

  8. Yes I think it is too. I know Avon Grove School District does it and I am sure it stops kids from making a bad decision.

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