Schools aim to crack down on drugs

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

School Superintendent Ralph Jones would like to see the county’s public school system become even more strict on how it handles students caught with illegal drugs on campus.

Speaking to the Board of Education at a dinner meeting that preceded their regular meeting last Thursday, Jones brought up the idea of creating special disciplinary tribunals for students suspected of selling drugs on a school campus.

“Last year, we felt there were too many drug cases in the school system,” Jones said.

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The Board of Education has an alcohol and drug policy that applies to students at all Decatur County public schools. It prohibits students from possessing, using or being under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol while at school during school hours, on school property at any time it is being used by any school group, off-campus while taking part in a school-related activity, traveling to and from school. The policy also prohibits students from selling, distributing or showing intent to sell or distribute drugs or alcohol during those times.

Under the current policy, any student who violates the policy of possession or use of alcohol or drugs for the first time receives out-of-school suspension for 10 days and the student is referred to a disciplinary tribunal.

“In addition to disciplinary action, the student(s) and their parents or legal guardian must complete an eight-hour drug and alcohol intervention program provided by the Decatur County School System before the end of the semester. Failure to complete this program prior to the beginning of the semester will result in the student not being readmitted to the regular school program,” the policy states.

In cases involving the sale or distribution of illegal drugs or alcohol, school officials would immediately notify Bainbridge Public Safety or the Sheriff’s Office.

Superintendent: ‘let’s really be hard’ on drug dealers

Upon second offense, the student is expelled for a period of time, which would result in the loss of one year of credit. In grades 9-12, that would result in the student being expelled for the semester in which the offense occurred and for the following semester. Before being readmitted to school, the student would have to show proof that they and their parents have retaken the drug and alcohol intervention program and participated in a counseling session with a professional.

In the past, students found guilty of violating the drug and alcohol policy were punished by being sent to night school for a set amount of time before being allowed to return to a regular school campus, Jones said. However, some of the schools’ principals felt that if a student had been found to have clearly selling or distributing drugs, they should be kept off campus permanently, he said.

“We had a case just the other day involving a student that had already been busted for drugs three times in Decatur County and he’s only 16 years old,” Jones said.

Jones suggested that the schools’ drug policy be amended to preclude students caught attempting to sell drugs from being able to attend night school as a path toward returning to regular school.

“We’re starting to find hardcore kids who are only at school to sell dope,” Jones said. “My feeling is, if we have this policy and we’re serious about keeping drugs out of our schools, let’s really be hard on [dealers].”

“Our folks know who’s selling [drugs] at school,” Jones said. “But there’s only so much you can do legally.”

Jones said school officials will continue to bring in police dogs, which are specially trained to sniff out traces of illegal drugs to search students’ lockers, classrooms and the exterior of cars in parking lots.

The superintendent noted, however, that school officials are not legally allowed to use drug detection dogs to sniff students’ persons.

“In the cases we do catch students dealing drugs, we’re going to take care of them,” Jones said.

Georgia law attempts to keep illegal drug activity away from schools, as well. Persons found possessing illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of a school can be charged with a felony and if convicted, would be subject to imprisonment and fines.