Substance abuse penalties to be eased

The Greenport Board of Education is poised to adopt a revised substance abuse policy next month that would create a two-tier penalty system for infractions instead of the single one-year suspension penalty now in effect.

The policy also would combine two policies now in effect separately for members of athletic teams and the general student body.

Both policies currently require the same 12-month suspension from extracurricular activities and non-curricular activities sponsored by the school for substance abuse infractions. The new policy would ease the penalty to provide for at least a two-week suspension as a first step.

The proposed new policy was presented at Tuesday night’s board meeting and could be adopted in June.

Under the new policy, a student who is caught using drugs, alcohol or tobacco would be subject to a two-day classroom suspension with assigned work performed in an alternative site, such as the school office, and a minimum of a two-week suspension from extracurricular activities for a first offense. The suspension could be lifted if the student reports the incident himself and is willing to take immediate action to address the problem.

A second offense would subject the student to at least a two-day academic suspension and a 12-month suspension from all school-sponsored extracurricular and non-curricular activities.

A student could petition the superintendent after serving five months of that suspension and the superintendent would be authorized to cut the remaining months of suspension from extracurricular activities if he deemed that the student had demonstrated exemplary behavior and scholarship during the five-month period.

Students on athletic teams would still have to sign contracts agreeing to refrain from the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Coaches and advisers to extracurricular programs would have the authority to impose additional restrictions on students who violate the school policy.

Under the existing policy, a student who is subject to a 12-month suspension from extracurricular activities can appeal to the school board after five months if it is a first offense.

The new policy would allow the superintendent to handle appeals, although the initial draft of the proposal would have kept the school board in charge of them. The change was made at the request of member Dan Creedon. The board should create policies, but not deal with individual children and their parents in enforcing those policies, Mr. Creedon said.

Board members also got a revised policy on absences that administrators hope will help keep students from losing course credit. The current policy requires that students lose course credit with their 21st absence. Under the new policy, the school year will be divided into quarters and students who have six absences in a quarter will be afforded an opportunity to make up course work through assignments their teachers provide.

It will give students an opportunity to avoid losing course credit, especially at a time when Greenport has cut its secondary school summer program for budgetary reasons, Mr. Comanda said.

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