Page 4 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • July 15, 2009 FLOW Area Regional district approves extracurricular regulation by Frank J. McMahon The Ramapo Indian Hills Board of Education has approved a new policy on conduct and discipline and a regulation that will limit the opportunity of any student to participate in board sponsored extracurricular activities if that student does not refrain from the use, possession, or distribution of any alcoholic beverage or other drugs, unless prescribed by a physician, both on and off school grounds. Violations of the behavioral expectations of students on school grounds and/or at school sponsored events will be reported to the school’s principal. Violations occurring away from school grounds or events will be deemed to have occurred if a student is formally charged and/or arrested by law enforcement for an alleged violation of the state’s code of criminal justice, or applicable municipal ordinances. A subsequent conference with the student and/or his or her parents and the student assistance counselor and other appropriate district personnel will determine if a violation has occurred. If a violation is determined to have occurred, the minimum consequences following a student’s first violation will be the exclusion of the student from extracurricular activities for seven school days. A second violation will exclude the student for 90 days and a third violation will exclude the student for 180 school days. During the period of suspension from extracurricular activities, the student will receive educational intervention appropriate to his or her needs. The regulation pertaining to student conduct away from school grounds, especially regarding the use of drugs and alcohol, has been a controversial issue in the district since 2007, when a survey indicated that students were often experimenting with alcohol and drugs away from school grounds and the school board felt compelled, as educators, to do something about it. Since then, the board has revised the policy and regulation several times seeking a way to address the objections of some parents who claimed it was not legal for the school district to discipline their children while away from school grounds. Two of the eight members of the board, Elizabeth Pierce and Ira Belsky, voted against the approval of the policy and regulation. Pierce said the school district is “overstepping our bounds” because there is a legal system and punishment that is spelled out by that legal system for infractions off school grounds. “If any of our students break the law that set of laws and the students’ parents should be the authority,” she said. “I believe we are setting ourselves up for an additional fiscal burden if we punish our students for behavior off school grounds and a parent feels we don’t have the authority to do that. A lawsuit could be filed and, win or lose, we would be spending taxpayer dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.” Pierce questioned what would happen if the charges against a student are dropped or if the student is found innocent after being arrested, or what would happen if a parent refuses to attend the conference with district personnel. “Extracurricular activities are a privilege but we are going down a slippery slope when we start trying to monitor our students’ behavior 24/7 without having the parents’ approval to do so,” she said. Belsky argued the school district is never told of a student’s arrest by the police because most students are minors and police will not confirm an arrest. He prefers the original policy proposed more than a year ago where the issue of underage drinking and illegal drug use would have been be presented to students and their parents each time the student signed up for an extracurricular activity by virtue of a mandatory pledge by student participants in extracurricular activities. He said he felt a voluntary pledge would serve everyone well and he supported a policy that seeks to have the student voluntarily sign a pledge against underage drinking and illegal drug use. Belsky said the voluntary pledge would provoke a serious conversation in the family about this issue each and every time a student wanted to participate in any extracurricular activity that would be far more valuable than a policy that “will almost certainly never be invoked.” “One of the reasons I advocated this policy in the first place was to provide assistance to those students who are inclined not to drink or use illegal drugs, but who frequently find themselves in settings where peer pressure to drink and use illegal drugs is great. I think that the district should be providing tools to aid students to say no to their friends, teammates, and classmates.” (continued on page 23) Helpful Hints Helpful Hints from Pete Says... ome “When traveling, make sure you have the following items in the trunk of your car; a powerful flashlight, road flares, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher” Out of the way, but worth it. 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