Brick School District's New Drug Policy to Focus on Rehabilitation
Previous policy required only an out-of-school suspension, officials say
While there may be some minor tweaks before the policy comes up for a final vote before the Board of Education next month, the meat of the policy revision focuses on helping students caught using drugs or alcohol overcome and avoid using such substances in the future rather than pure punishment.
The old policy, Superintendent Walter Uszenski said, left school officials with essentially only one option: a ten-day, out-of-school suspension.
The option was a bad a one, he said.
"The new policy is an in-school suspension with a therapeutic aspect," said Uszenski. "After school hours, the child and the parents can go to get counseling. The student will get immersed in it during the day while still getting instruction, and after school, we recommend strongly that they attend a counseling component with their parents."
The 16-page draft policy includes the details of how the district will deal with cases of students caught using or possessing banned substances, including alcoholic beverages, controlled dangerous substances including anabolic steroids, and inhaled substances or medications that can be used to cause intoxication.
State law dictates much of the policy, including how the district's random drug testing program operates. But after a student, one way or another, is caught with alcohol or drugs, the district came up with its own plan of attack within the confines of the law.
"They had no recourse," said Board of Education President Sharon Cantillo, of students who were sent home for ten days under the old policy. "It was, 'you were found, the police reported you, you're out of here.' I saw the results of what happened to some of those kids. One of them is dead."
The new program provides more of a focus on rehabilitation than simply punishment.
On a first offense, a student will serve a three to five day in-school suspension with mandatory in school counseling, to begin after completion of a medical examination, the policy states. A second or third incident will bring about a five to nine day in-school suspension, and additional offenses will be referred to the superintendent to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Each incident will also mean that the student will be subject to an assessment from the school Student Assistance Counselor, and enrollment in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program if the assessment results indicate that such enrollment is appropriate.
Attendance and progress while enrolled in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program will be monitored by the counselor, who will be obligated to provide parents with information on local programs. If such a program comes with a monetary cost, it will be the responsibility of the students' parents to pay.
Students or parents who refuse to comply with the district's program will be referred to state authorities as the law dictates, the policy states.
A committee of school board members, school staff and Uszenski put the policy together with input from parents in the community, Uszenski said.
"The ultimate goal in this is not punishment," said board member Karyn Cusanelli. "It’s about rehabilitating a student and giving them the best chance possible."
The policy will likely be up for a final vote at the April meeting of the Board of Education.