Punishing players an act of caring
As a parent and spokesperson for NotMYKid, I am compelled to express my support for the loss of eligibility for playing basketball by members of the Westminster High School girls basketball team. These young athletes having fine qualities of character made an inadvertent decision to break the county's drug and alcohol policy. Yes, this was a single poor choice made on the Friday before the holiday break by very fine students and athletes. Few parents would not feel compassion for these students and their parents. Every administrator would feel anguish making such a decision.
Feelings of compassion, anguish, and disappointment are superseded by reality: Recent years have brought increased intensity of drug and alcohol use by younger ages of our youth in Carroll County. Reading the news report about these young students brought to mind the naivetM-i for which we must all assume as much responsibility as possible for maintaining. Lives offering productive futures and family continuity must be provided every opportunity to reach fruition.
When our wonderful son was on the varsity basketball team at Westminster High School, he may have attended a similar party. For us, there was no policy. This opportunity for a red flag did not exist. When friendships with his teammates continued even after graduation, we were pleased. Reassured that these were kids we knew, having parents involved in their lives, we asked fewer questions. One evening, also before a holiday, a very close WHS basketball team member and Michael drove to Baltimore. The coroner explained to me that the drug had been "not enough to kill him." It was the unfortunate combination of cough medicine taken for his cold, which depressed breathing, along with the inhalation of a drug that shut down his central nervous system. That evening, my kid suffocated.
If we do not take every opportunity in the beginning, we may not have a chance in the end. Some parents are upset with the school system's policy and decision. Others become annoyed when informed that their child's car has been identified by police dogs with having a scent of drugs. Me? I would call the principal and say, "Thank you." For making me aware that - at the very least - my kid is around friends doing drugs or alcohol, "Thank you."
Are any of us so certain of the precise unfortunate combination of events that could threaten our child's life? Riding home with a good friend who only had a few drinks? Taking cough medicine before going out with a good friend? Do our kids know? Do we? It is due to the courage of our superintendent, Dr. Ecker, that our school system is open and honest with parents. It is not with pride that we initiated the NotMYKid program or write about Carroll County students' problems with alcohol and drug use in school newsletters, but with deep commitment to keep our students healthy and safe. Policies are written with the reality that they may be challenged by even the most unlikely students. Difficult decisions are made with genuine determination to help students make safe choices even in stressful situations. Dr. Ecker's leadership stands for schools that are drug-free.
This is what he is about.
This is what are schools stand for.
Would you want less?
Thomasina Depinto Piercy
Mixed signals from drug policy
The best high school basketball coach (and one of the finest educators) in Carroll County just resigned as a result of fallout following the dismissal of three-quarters of his team for violating the CCPS off-campus drug and alcohol policy. Not only is Dick Ebersole a victim of this ill-conceived policy, along with the nine girls who were dismissed, but remaining players and future players at Westminster High are also victims. They will miss out on the coaching and benefits of association with this fine man. Because enforcement of this policy is so sporadic, the deterrent component is questionable. A number of Carroll County athletes are drinking every weekend, particularly many of the standouts who visit colleges as recruits. Not surprisingly, since the policy is impossible to enforce consistently, rarely is anyone disciplined.
While Carroll County's athletic policy on drinking (and being in proximity to drinking - which CCPC's incorrectly calls "constructive possession") is the strictest in the state, the CCPS policy on possession, sale, use, or being under the influence of drugs and alcohol in school is one of the weakest. Usually the penalty is a local suspension of a few days. In Baltimore County, in contrast, a student found in violation of these Category III offenses is expelled for a minimum of two quarters and most often arrested and charged with a criminal offense as well.
As an interesting sideline, when the news media attempts to solicit information from CCPS on these disciplinary actions, school officials hide behind a cloak of so-called student privacy. Paradoxically, where is the privacy of individuals in their own homes free from intrusion by the school system? Moreover, experience has shown that once a government agency - like the schools - usurps parental responsibility, the parents frequently relax oversight of their children leaving discipline to the schools. Finally, relative to the privacy issue, it is contradictory when a student is arrested for a drug or alcohol violation outside of school and unless the arrest is for a "criminal reportable offense" (which normally it is not) the school cannot be notified because it violates the privacy of the student. Note: A "criminal reportable offense" is one where the offense or the offender would present a real threat to the safe and secure learning environment.
Carroll County Public School officials and school board members need to put aside their arrogance and egos and eliminate or significantly revise the drug and alcohol policy for athletes actions outside of school and strengthen the policy and penalties for drug, alcohol, and behavioral offenses in school.
Athletic director, Catonsville High School; former assistant principal, Loch Raven High School