I got an unexpected call yesterday from a parent of one of my daughter’s friends. He didn’t realize he knew me at first, he was so absorbed in his purpose. It seems the city where I live has a zero tolerance drug policy in its schools, which means if a student commits a drug offense, the student is expelled for 365 days and sent to an “alternative education” center. I actually found it excedingly difficult to find out exactly what constitutes a drug offense. Possibly, being under the influence, but it may require actual possession.
That’s not really my issue, anyway. Here’s the thing: two other friends of my daughter (not the caller’s child), along with one of their sisters, got high before school. One child actually carried some into school with her. Now, whether someone figured out that they were stoned, or someone told on them, or if a teacher saw the actual material, they got busted.
Zero tolerance. Three hundred sixty-five days out of school.
The parent was calling to urge people to go to the school administration building for a hearing, in order to protest the severity of the sentence.
My feelings on this are mixed. Yes, I do believe a year out of school is excessive for a first offense, especially for the two students who didn’t have any drugs on their person.
And I can’t help but wonder if being in an alternative school is really a good idea for a few kids who aren’t that bad. I am not saying they are innocent at all. In fact, I do think they merit some kind of intervention, and not based on this incident alone.
But if we want to save kids who might be making some missteps, do we want to make the same mistakes we make with petty criminals by sending them to spend time interacting with other kids who are troubled? And, in light of a local report stating that this particular high school’s drop out rate is higher than the state average, don’t we want to prevent what seems like an open door to dropping out? A year off track in their regular school might be just the thing that derails them permanently.
I haven’t decided yet what to do. I can’t help but wonder if a little more parent fervor before this happened, about the choices these kids are making, might be more appropriate than the current action.
I don’t pretend that my daughter doesn’t make bad choices. In fact, I know she does. But I also make clear my position on those things, and the consequences, just as the school policy does. She is old enough to know that when you choose certain things there is a price to pay. I just hope she sees how dear that price really is.