"School polices on students, workers prompt worries"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:57 AM
"Should school authorities who find a kid drinking booze or doing illegal drugs be required to call the cops?Should school employees taking certain legal medications be required to tell their supervisor, who in turn will consult with the district office?The South Whidbey school board and an interested audience struggled with such questions Tuesday night, and the board ultimately sent them back to the school's attorney for another legal look.School authorities often don't call the police when they find a student violating alcohol or drug laws, said Doug Hale, assistant principal at the high school, during the discussion.Hale pointed to a band trip to Yakima this year when two students were found smoking marijuana. The parents were called to pick them up, he said. But the police weren't informed.Under the new board policy being considered, number 2167, students found using drugs or alcohol would have to deal with the police as well as in-house school discipline. The policy states, It is the clear intent of the board to ensure meaningful consequences for students possessing, using or distributing alcohol, illegal drugs or other controlled substances in or near the schools, on school premises or as part of any school activity, including field trips and out of town athletic events. All violators shall be immediately referred to the appropriate police agency.Hale heads a committee that has been updating discipline policies adopted in 1986. Most changes have been minor and made to comply with changes in law in the last 14 years. In fact, the requirement to call police wasn't even a change, but it appeared to be news to everyone present at Tuesday's meeting.Ray Gabelein, board member, questioned the requirement that police be notified. If it's written down and we don't do it . . . he said. As an example, he imagined a student being told to leave school and then getting in a wreck, suggesting that the school may be liable for not following its own policy and calling the police.Bruce Schwager, audience member, worried about kids who travel on school trips to foreign countries. Would the local police then have to be notified? The band also went to Canada this year, he pointed out.Futhermore, Schwager said, the schools could be accused of following the policy with some students and not others. Then you're really in trouble, he said.Employees andtheir medicationProposed new language in a personnel board policy, number 5258, sparked criticism from Steve Shapiro, a physician, who happened to be in the audience with his wife, Debra Valis, who co-chaired the school levy committee.The policy refers to any staff member who is taking medication which may adversely affect the staff member's ability to perform work in a safe or productive manner. A staff member using such medication is required to report such use of medication to his or her supervisor . . . the supervisor, in conjunction with the district office, then will determine whether the staff member can remain at work.The policy is aimed at drugs which are known or advertised as possibly affecting judgment, coordination, or any of the senses, including those which may cause drowsiness or dizziness.Shapiro said that while well-intentioned, the effect of the policy is that it would violate confidentiality. He pointed to widely-used anti-depressants as an example. To have to report that to your supervisor . . . . it's a well motivated, dangerous policy, he said.Lisa Bjork, superintendent of schools, said the new policies have all been by legal, meaning legal review.Then legal missed, replied Shapiro.Diane Watson, the administrator who read the policies, said she would take the controversial parts back to the district lawyer for another review. All the board members seemed to concur. But she added that many of the policy changes were made as required by law. If it's prescribed by federal language I suspect we'll have to stand by it, she said."