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December 11, 2012 9:35 am

School district considers drug, alcohol policy changes

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Proposed revisions would lessen academic penalties

The punishments given to students who violate the Park County School District No. 1 alcohol, tobacco and drug policy may change under revisions to the current school code.

The new policy, which would reduce the number of out-of-school suspension days and reduce academic penalties, is designed to punish those who break rules while preventing them from falling too far behind in classes.

“We can create our own dropouts if we keep tying academics and behavior,” said Park County School District No. 1 Superintendent Kevin Mitchell.

Powell High School assistant principal Tim Wormald said the school board has been looking to address this issue for the past couple years.

“(The district wants) to address behavior without quite the detrimental hit to the academics,” Wormald said.

Under the current policy, students who violate the drug and alcohol policy receive 10 days of out-of-school suspension, are not allowed to complete school work and receive a zero on all assignments missed during that time.

The revised drug and alcohol policy divides the 10 days of suspension between five days of out-of-school suspension followed by five days of in-school suspension.

Students who violate the district’s tobacco policy receive one day of out-of-school suspension and one day of in-school suspension.

The new policy also would not only allow, but require suspended students to complete all school work given in their classes during suspensions.

“When we suspended kids out of school, we took away their ability to do the work,” Wormald said. “If we’re not expelling the student we should in some way give them the opportunity to earn credit for that semester.”

Instead of receiving no credit for assignments missed due to out-of-school suspension, the students would be limited to 64 percent of the total possible points on any one assignment. There would be no penalty on work completed during in-school suspension.

“What becomes clear to us quite often, is that there’s a difference between a zero and a failing grade,” Wormald said. “You fail those assignments that you miss, but there is a pretty significant difference in terms of how grades are averaged between a zero and a 64.”

All violators will be given additional days of in-school-suspension if all school work assigned during the suspension period is not completed. All violators also are required to successfully complete the district’s intervention program or risk expulsion up to one calendar year, according to the policy.

In an interview with the Tribune last week, Mitchell expressed concern that the 10 days of out-of-school suspension required by the current policy can, in effect, ail students. A Powell High School policy penalizes students who miss 10 or more days of class by nullifying all credit earned that semester. Mitchell said only five days of out-of-school suspension wouldn’t be as much of a burden on grades.

During the Nov. 27 school board meeting, Mitchell discussed the possible benefits of allowing students to receive more than 64 percent credit on assignments completed during out-of-school suspension meeting but no specific figure was mentioned.

“I would accept a change (to the credit cap during out-of-school suspension),” Mitchell said.

All violators must serve the described consequences in their entirety, according to the policy. The 10-day suspension can be served in two different school years, if necessary. According to the policy, “students who violate this policy at school-sponsored events and/or on school grounds during the summer break shall be required to serve the consequences at the beginning of the following school year.” Violators in summer school will be dismissed from the summer session and will serve their suspension at the beginning of the following school year.

Mitchell said the revisions were written primarily by Powell Middle School assistant principal Kyle Rohrer and Wormald, with input from Powell Middle School principal Jason Sleep and Shoshone Learning Center principal Ginger Sleep.

The revisions will be discussed, possibly amended and voted on during tonight’s (Tuesday’s) board meeting. If approved, the revised code would take effect immediately.

The alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse policy was last revised Dec. 14, 2010.

The board will also welcome its two new members, Lisa Barrus and Lynn Stutzman, and will elect its officers, including board chair, vice chair, clerk and treasurer, at tonight’s meeting.

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