Prompted by three Santa Monica High School (SaMoHi) seniors caught drinking while on a choir trip earlier this spring in Cambridge, England, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s School Board decided to temporarily waive the 10-week probation period set forth in the district’s current controlled substance abuse policy so those students can graduate.
Earlier this spring a chaperone found the three SaMoHi choir students sitting with beers in a Cambridge bar despite being aware of the district’s policy of not permitting students to possess or use alcohol and/or drugs. The district’s alcohol and drug policy is distributed to all district students in grades 1-12 at the beginning of each school year.
The unanimous board vote means that the 10-week probation period for all of this year’s graduating high school seniors and eighth graders graduating who are first-time offenders will still be able to attend their graduation ceremonies and other special end-of-the-year events. However, they will still have to comply with the other conditions specified in the policy.
The other conditions include each student completing 24 hours of substance abuse counseling and having his/her parent attend 12 hours of parent substance abuse counseling. In addition, the student must complete 40 hours of community service and they must join a 12-step program if the type of offense warrants it. Lastly, these students must be willing to abide by the district’s conduct and discipline policies, administrative regulations, and school rules.
The 10-week probation period did not allow students to participate in all sports, dramatic, choral or musical performances, dances, cheerleading, graduation, and award ceremonies. The waiver of the 10-week probation period does not apply to students in grades 1-7 or 9-11 and will expire on June 30, 2011.
Outgoing Superintendent Tim Cuneo suggested that the board should have a permanent revision of the policy in place by the time the fall semester begins. He also recommended a process for revising the policy which included reviewing what other districts are doing and having a committee with community members and district staff to develop a draft policy with supporting regulations for the board to review.
“Taking away a culmination ceremony like a graduation for first time offenders does a disservice to students. If we take away a graduation ceremony we’re punishing not only the student but also their whole family,” said Oscar de la Torre, a board member, expressing his support for waiving the 10-week probation.
“I look forward to the discussion we’re going to have over the summer regarding this,” said Nimish Patel, also a board member. “I’m glad we’re having this temporary measure because what we’re realizing is that… if we don’t do something about this right now we can’t make it up to our children. If we don’t make a change now their experience of graduation with their family will be lost.”