The Chilliwack school board will not change the drug and alcohol policy that saw 12 Sardis secondary soccer players suspended for smoking pot at an overnight tournament in September.
Policy 500 - Drugs and Alcohol was reviewed by the board's education policy advisory committee last week, and nine out of 10 members present-including four students- voted it should be reaffirmed by the board with no changes.
On Tuesday, trustees voted 4-1 to accept their recommendation.
"It creates boundaries for students," trustee Heather Maahs said of the policy. "Ultimately kids need to know what the boundaries are, and kids will push boundaries to test to see whether or not the boundaries will actually hold."
Chair Walt Krahn, and trustees Martha Wiens and Doug McKay also spoke in favour of keeping the policy as is.
"It is absolutely imperative that we keep our school environment free of drugs and alcohol," Krahn said.
McKay added the policy had the support of all students on the advisory committee.
But trustee Barry Neufeld, the only board member to oppose the policy, questioned whether students with substance abuse problems were adequately represented by the students on the committee.
"They were bright, they all have ambitions about going on to university, but I don't really think that they adequately represented kids who are struggling and do not feel connected to their school community," he said.
Neufeld said the policy is "punitive" and "archaic" and cuts kids with substance abuse problems off from schools.
"Students who have an addiction problem have a disease; they're sick," he said. "And in this policy, the only way they address it is by forcing the kids to move to a different school. .. it only makes the problems worse. The problems get worse until, finally, they end up in Ford Mountain [Correctional Centre]
Mountain [Correctional Centre] and are able to finish their graduation there."
Krahn, however, argued the current policy gives district staff "certain boundaries that they can work with" and outlines a collaborative approach involving parents, students, schools and community agencies.
Although the education policy advisory committee regularly reviews policies that are more than five years old, superintendent Evelyn Novak said she pushed to have Policy 500 on the agenda last week because of two incidents this fall-one being the suspension of a dozen members of the Sardis soccer team for marijuana use.
"Certainly it was highlighted because of that," she said. "It compelled me to bring it forward for review."
Although the policy was reaffirmed Tuesday, Novak said the district still plans to take another look at the administrative regulations, which detail how the policy is implemented The regulations will be discussed at a district-wide principal and vice-principals meeting in either January and February, and changes could be coming before the end of the school year, she said.
"We needed to hear what the board said about the policy," she said. "Now we can go have the conversation around the regulation and determine whether or not there will be any changes."
Novak said the policy itself is not punitive, but that parents of suspended students had criticized part of regulations that mandated nine of the Sardis soccer players be kicked out of their school for one term after only their first drug infraction.
"I think they want a tier of interventions," Novak said. "I don't think that they were in disagreement that there needed to be consequences. I think the disagreement was in what the consequence was."
. To read district's drug and alcohol policy and its related administrative regulations, visit www.sd33.bc.ca and look for the policy manual tab under the board of education menu.
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