District tightens drug rules for school activities

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2008

For high school students in Juneau who participate in extracurricular activities, punishments for smoking, drinking or doing drugs may soon have no off-season.

The Alaska School Activities Association adopted a statewide policy that its member school districts, including Juneau, must abide by next school year.

The Juneau School District has little choice but to adopt the new rules if it wants to be a part of ASAA, Superintendent Peggy Cowan said. She said the district's lawyer is drafting a new district policy that is aligned with ASAA's new rules.

"We want to participate," Cowan said.

The ASAA policy lays out punishments for students who break the prohibited substances rules that range from a 10-day suspension from activities for a first offense to barring a student's participation for the duration of high school under a fourth offense.

A major difference for Juneau's students is that new ASAA rules last from the first day they participate in an extracurricular activity until the day they graduate.

According to Juneau School District's current policy, students who participate in extracurricular activities in Juneau are expected to refrain from using, possessing or being under the influence of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at all times and in all places, during "the term of the activity."

They also are supposed to "disassociate themselves from situations where alcohol and drugs are being illegally used."

But once the extracurricular activity is over, students are only subject to the district's rules that prohibited using, possessing or being under the influence of drugs, alcohol and tobacco on school grounds or at school functions.

The new ASAA rules "makes the kids be honest to themselves out of season," said Sandi Wagner, the district's high school activities director. Wagner also is a member of ASAA's board of directors that formulated the new policy.

"It's a privilege to be in an activity," Wagner said. "Here's a reason to say 'no.'"

The new ASAA rules are less strict for first-time offenders than Juneau's current policy, which mandates a 30-day suspension from all activities and bars student athletes from the remainder of their sports' season.

Wagner said the ASAA rules are a state minimum, and school districts can decide on harsher penalties.

ASAA's policy is also a little different for first-time tobacco violations, recognizing that tobacco use is pervasive in some areas, said ASAA Executive Director Gary Matthews.

If a student is caught using tobacco during the suspension, the clock starts over. The student must complete the 10 days no matter how many times the suspension is restarted.

"We realize there is a tremendous use of tobacco by young people, in rural Alaska especially," he said. "We're not trying to get kids out of activities, we are trying to change attitudes and lifestyles and behaviors."

All violations must be reported to the association, which will compile the reports into a database.

That way if a student changes schools, the information will be turned over to the administrator of the new school under strict confidentiality, Matthews said. There, it may be shared only with the student's coach or other activity director.

Juneau School Board member Margo Waring said she expected some parents to be concerned about privacy concerns of sharing a student's discipline record outside the district.

The School Board's policy committee is scheduled to discuss the new ASAA policy at its next meeting, which is set for June 20.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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