Thursday, October 28, 2010

Canada: Many School Suspensions linked to Alcohol, Drug Use

Times Colonist

There have been 54 suspensions handed out to students in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district so far this year, with 24 due to drug and/or alcohol offences in the district's high schools. The other major offences causing suspensions so far this year also include fighting (12) and assaults (five).

Superintendent Mike Munro said that while it's "not uncommon" for students to experiment with drugs and alcohol, they can be suspended for three to 10 days for a first offence, along with the possibility that the students and their families be referred to local social agencies for assistance or drug addiction treatment.

He said after three drug/alcohol offences within an 18-month period, students can be suspended for up to 20 days and are automatically referred to the district's disciplinary committee that deals with more serious incidents and committee members determine the next steps. After four offences, Munro said the district then has to determine if the student has medical issues and requires some sort of intervention. Students in this category are often referred to appropriate social agencies and their academic programs usually continue outside of regular school instruction.

However, Munro said for students who take alcohol and/or drugs to school with the purpose of selling, the penalties are much more severe.

"These students are trying to make money off the weaknesses of others and we take a very dim view of this," Munro said.

"Students under 16 who participate in these activities can be suspended for a full calendar year, with the matter also referred to the discipline committee, while those over 16 can be expelled. The police are often involved in these cases and charges can be brought forward, as has been the case in many instances over the years."

Munro said statistics around which of the district's high schools have the most drug/alcohol suspensions are not available, but in his experience they are typically spread out equally between all of them.

"There are other options and programs available to us rather than kicking these kids out of school or suspending them for long periods of time," he said. "The current policy has been in place for 15 years and it's now under review."

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