By Diane Dietz
The Statesman Journal
In theory, the Salem-Keizer School Board wants to make this clear: The district will not tolerate drugs or alcohol at school.
But at Tuesday's meeting, it was clear that board members don't agree on how to turn their zero-tolerance sentiment into enforceable rules.
The board will continue to review the disciplinary policy and a set of get-tough administrative rules. The review was prompted by changes to state and federal law, said Marilyn Herb, director of McKay Area Operations.
But the school board hasn't reached a consensus on how tough the district should be. For instance, does zero tolerance mean that the first time a student gets caught with a marijuana cigarette or a hip flask containing alcohol, he or she automatically is kicked out of school for a year?
School Board president Dave Bauer says yes.
"As long a we're going to allow them a second or third offense, it's not zero tolerance," he said.
Several other board members argued to give disciplinary hearing officers flexibility in administering the rules. For example, the officer could choose to send first time offenders to a 45-day program of study and treatment and then allow them to return to the classroom.
"They need help, not expulsion," board member Dan Saucy said. One problem for the board members: They still are required to educate the students they expel. Already, the expulsion rate has soared from a handful of students five years ago to 260 so far this year. They get instruction through district alternative education programs, which would be hard-pressed to accept many more expelled students.
"I'm worried we're designing a program we wouldn't be able to pay for," board member Sharon Gray said.
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