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HCS seeking a student drug policy change from board

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By Kelly Cantrall

Students who have violated the drug and alcohol policy at Hardin County Schools could receive a different punishment if a change is approved by the district’s Board of Education.

The Hardin County Schools board likely will decide on a change to the “Controlled Substances Violation Referral Process” in the district’s code of conduct that will shorten suspensions of first offenders of the district’s drug and alcohol policy. The district is seeking to enforce the change to make the policy fair for all students and to keep students in the classroom longer. The board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Currently, students found to be possessing, using or under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol for the first time at school or a school-related event would be suspended for 10 days and receive a referral to Brown Street Alternative Center, or five days if they agreed to receive drug counseling.

The district is seeking approval from the board to shorten that suspension time to five days, or three days if the student receives counseling.

In a memo sent to the board, the stated reason is to put students back in the classroom to receive instruction as soon as possible.

There also was some debate as to the fairness for all students with the policy, said Bobby Lewis, associate superintendent for student services. Special education students only can be suspended for a total of 10 days a year, so if they were punished under the drug and alcohol policy, they often would only receive a five-day suspension to not use the entire allotted time. Lewis said the change would make the policy fair for all students.

So far this year, the district has had 37 students suspended for this violation, all of whom have opted for the shorter suspension and drug counseling.

Lewis said he thinks the district’s policy could be more liberal than other districts, but they also are considering changing the policy to an automatic referral to Brown Street for a certain period of time.

Wayne Young, executive director for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, didn’t have information about general policies in school districts, but believed a suspension for a period of time was common for a first offense.

The policy for Elizabethtown Independent Schools doesn’t state a specific penalty mandated. It states that students could be suspended or expelled for a violation of the rule.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.