Updated school policy will now officially give administrators some discretion regarding involving law enforcement when it comes to substance use on school grounds.
The Carroll County Board of Education was briefed on a policy change last week dealing with how issues involving substance abuse are handled. The change in the policy itself really comes from one word, CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said. The regulations are where the meat of the changes are, he added.
According to former policy, "in all cases, parents and students are advised that appropriate law enforcement agencies will be contacted by school system officials immediately upon the discovery of any alcohol/drug use, possession or distribution in school, on any school property or during any school sponsored function."
Now, Guthrie said, the policy reads that law enforcement agencies "may" be called. When alcohol is involved, he said, school administration may not necessarily contact law enforcement.
When it comes to illegal substances, like marijuana or other drugs, law enforcement is still required to be involved, Guthrie said.
"I believe that what we're doing now, or what is in policy [now is] a small tweak from what we've done in practice," he added.
Dana Falls, the director of student services for CCPS, said at the April 11 Board of Education meeting, that when it comes to alcohol issues, the substance isn't an illegal substance, but rather one those under 21 can't have.
"The law enforcement community has indicated it has no interest in responding necessarily to alcohol," he added.
Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said it's not that his office isn't concerned about issues of students having alcohol, but that the school system has Duane Williams, supervisor of school security and emergency management, who has the same authority his deputies do on school property for this type of situation.
"We certainly would respond and handle it" if called, he added. "But the schools are equipped to handle that type of incident."
Falls said it's under the school administrator's judgment.
"In that case, the administration would still have the discretion to file juvenile charges," he said.
The policy lays out four possible situations where action, be it through school punishment or law enforcement action, would be taken. They include:
•Possession/use (or demonstrating effects of use) of a student's own prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs/medication (unless authorized to carry by a health care provider and school administrator) and distribution of over-the-counter drugs/medication within proper dosage.
•Students who use (or demonstrate effects of use) alcohol/drugs or inhalants and students who manufacture or possess alcohol/drugs, inhalants, drug paraphernalia or controlled paraphernalia (including prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs/medication if not covered by previous section).
•Students who attempt to distribute or distribute alcohol/drugs (including over-the-counter drugs/medication in excess of the recommended dosage and any amount of prescription drugs) and students who attempt to distribute or distribute drug paraphernalia, controlled paraphernalia or inhalants.
•Students who solicit the purchase or transfer of drugs, alcohol, inhalants or paraphernalia.
Each situation includes different routes depending on the severity of the incident and the number of previous offenses a student has. For the last three scenarios, students are required mandatory referral for substance abuse screening. Referrals are handled by the Youth Services Bureau or another provider with approval of the director of student services.
Guthrie said the last time the policy was actually changed was sometime in the 1980s, and it's always important to revise policies when need be. The school system worked with local partners like the State's Attorney's Office, Juvenile Services and the Sheriff's Office in updating the policy.
"Any time we have the opportunity to meet with our allied agencies to say, 'Are we doing this right?' we welcome," Guthrie said.