School board to review student drug policies

Published 9:43pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Selma City Schools policy on drugs was the hot topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Selma City School Board work session.

Currently, the board’s policy states that when a student is found with drugs, the student is suspended for nine days followed by an expulsion hearing where the student’s case is heard. The board has a no tolerance policy, so anyone found guilty of having drugs on their person at school will be suspended for the remainder of the year.

School Board President Henry Hicks Sr. said that due to the fact that the board has seen numerous cases dealing with drugs, he thought it would be warranted for the board to try and seek out alternative punishments.

“We were losing a lot of our young men because we’re expelling them out of school, and this is just another alternative to try and find a way to punish but not expel,” Hicks said.

Selma City Schools Superintendent Gerald Shirley called on all other 131 school districts, seeking input on their drug policies and the board reviewed those that responded.

“Some of these cases I read are on a case-by-case basis, where the superintendents made different recommendations, but I think it’s something we really need to look at and see if we can work through it and see if we can find another way, other than the way we’ve been going,” Hicks said.

With the increased rate of drug related cases that have come before the board lately, board member Udo Ufomado said, it’s time to be proactive and make some amendments.

The board reviewed their recent discussion with Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley who had told them, with the current policy expelling students for possession — with no exception — that they are not really helping the children, sending them back out on the streets, keeping them out of school for an entire year.

The board said it is evident in each of the cases that have come before them that their hands are tied.

“If it’s a no tolerance policy then our hands are completely tied. We can’t do but one act,” board member Frank Chestnut said. “I think it does matter, first of all, that drugs are on the person. Secondly, the amount matters. Typically when we talk to these folks, they give us information that helps us understand where they’re coming from and help us to understand how the drugs got in their possession.”

Chestnut suggested that changing or even amending the policy would give the board some flexibility, and urged the other board members to focus on a swift and effective change.

“I think law enforcement has proved to us over the last few weeks that they’re willing to stick this out with us,” he said. “This is not a Selma City School issue alone, this is a city of Selma issue, this is a parental issue, this is a citizen of Selma issue. So we definitely need to look at not only, what do we do with the police department, but what do we do in the area of trying to counsel these young folks. It seems really harsh that they have to be sent right back out there where they came from.”

The board agreed to send the policies from the other school systems to their policy committee to figure out some alternatives and later send a recommendation back to the school board.

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