September 16, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 3 FLOW Area Parents file petition to halt extracurricular regulation by Frank J. McMahon Parents of an Indian Hills High School senior student have filed a petition to New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy, asking her to issue an order enjoining the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School Board of Education from enforcing a recently adopted regulation. That regulation would exclude a student from extracurricular activities if he or she 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 on or away from school grounds. Gregory and Theresa Meese filed the petition on Sept. 2. Their daughter, Brianna, has participated in several extracurricular activities, including the Academic Decathlon team, the fencing team, the Drama Club, the Italian Club, the National Honor Society, and has performed in school plays and musicals in each of her first three years at Indian Hills. In 2008, the student received the New Jersey Governor’s Award as the highest scoring high school opera singer in the state, and she plans to again participate in each of those extracurricular activities in her senior year. The Meeses claim the regulation is unlawful, unconstitutional, beyond the board’s power authorized by law, and violates their lawful and constitutional rights. They also claim the regulation violates the state law that provides that a school authority’s right to impose a consequence on a student for conduct away from school grounds, including on a school bus or at a school sponsored function, must be exercised only when the conduct, which is the subject of the proposed consequence, “materially and substantially” interferes with the requirements of the appropriate discipline in the operation of the school. In addition, the residents complain that the mandatory attendance at a conference with school and district personnel by a student arrested for any alleged violation of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice and/or municipal codes or ordinances prior to any determination as to whether the student’s alleged conduct materially and substantially interferes with the appropriate discipline in the operation of the school exceeds the authority of the district and violates state law. They claim the regulation is unconstitutional because it applies to only students involved in extracurricular activities, and it is vague, overbroad, and violates their constitutional and parental rights and those of their daughter. “I believe the regulation is illegal, and I don’t think the board of education should violate the law in their efforts to prevent students from violating the law,” Terry Meese said when asked about the petition. 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 experimenting with alcohol and drugs away from school grounds and the school board felt compelled to do something about it. When the regulation was first proposed in 2007, 30 to 40 parents of students in the school district attended a school board meeting, and more than 30 sent e-mails to the district’s administrative office to voice their opinions of the extracurricular activities regulation. The nine parents who spoke at the public meeting opposed the new regulation, and the e-mails that were received were split with about half in favor and half against it. Those who opposed the regulation claimed it would infringe upon the rights of parents to make moral, ethical, and disciplinary decisions in relation to their children, and the right of parents to raise their children without undue influence from the state. Those who supported the regulation said they were pleased the district was trying to do something about the problem of underage drinking and drug abuse. The board has revised its policy on conduct its regulation several times since then, seeking a way to address the objections of some parents who claimed it was not legal for the district to discipline their children while away from school grounds. Two of the eight members of the board, Elizabeth Pierce and Ira Belsky, ultimately voted against the approval of the policy and regulation. Pierce explained her negative votes, saying the district is “overstepping its bounds” because there is punishment that is spelled out by the legal system for infractions by students off school grounds. She voiced concern about the cost of defending a lawsuit filed against the regulation. Belsky claimed the regulation would not work because 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 of a minor. 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