Pubdate: Mon, 03 Mar 2008
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2008 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Matthew Hansen, World-Herald Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Vicki Rouse has always urged her three children to call  home from 
college if they found themselves in  alcohol-related trouble.

Now, even if they don't, mom is confident she'll get  the news.

All three Rouse children attend Hastings College, which  sends a 
letter home when a student is caught with drugs  or alcohol on campus.

The letter goes out even if a student hasn't been charged with a 
crime. It generally goes out whether the student likes it or not.

"I want the college to tell me," Vicki Rouse said. "You'd like to 
believe that when a kid gets to college they are grown up and know 
right from wrong. But when they are 18 or 19, they still need some guidance."

Colleges across Nebraska and the United States are obliging the 
Rouses and like-minded parents, increasingly using an exemption 
written into federal privacy law a decade ago to notify parents when 
a student is caught with a six-pack of beer or possessing a marijuana pipe.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently stiffened its marijuana 
policy and now phones parents the first time a student is caught with 
the drug in a residence hall.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha often mails a letter to parents 
when an underage student is caught with alcohol, a violation likely 
to increase as UNO builds more freshman and sophomore residence halls 
on campus.

And Hastings College leaders made the decision two years ago to 
notify parents after every first alcohol offense, a zero-tolerance 
policy also in place at the University of Georgia, the University of 
New Mexico and the University of Indiana.

"I tell students, 'Look, I'm not trying to intrude in your life 
except in this one place,'" said Ron Chesbrough, Hastings College's 
vice president for student affairs. "We think early intervention to 
involve parents is a lesser evil than simply saying nothing."

Hastings' policy wasn't legal until 1998, when Congress rewrote the 
Higher Education Act to allow parental notification when it involved 
a student's drug or alcohol use.

Privacy laws still prohibit colleges from releasing many student 
records, like a student's transcripts, to parents.

But college leaders say they have gradually shifted to quicker 
parental notifications when possible because "helicopter parents" demand it.

These parents often know their student's class schedule and credit 
card balances. Predictably, they also want to know if their children 
were consuming illegal substances on Saturday night, judicial officers say.

College administrators also have changed, said Kent Lavene, UNO's 
judicial officer. A generation ago, many administrators believed that 
a student was an adult and had an adult's right to keep information 
from his or her parents, Lavene said.

"We used to say things like, 'Hey, they are 18, they are on their 
own, they need to deal with these issues on their own,'" Lavene said. 
"You don't hear a lot of people saying those sort of things anymore."

At UNL, a shift in thinking means that the school's residence hall 
officials have made an estimated 25 to 30 calls to parents this 
school year. The majority of those calls notify the parents that 
their son or daughter has been caught with marijuana in a dorm room.

Until last year, no such call would've been made. But a rash of 
marijuana offenses convinced housing officials that they needed to 
strengthen their policy against the drug.

The new policy: The first marijuana offense means a student gets a 
ticket from police, has to enroll in a mandatory drug awareness 
course and is required to do hours of community service work.

It also triggers the automatic call home, during which a residence 
hall assistant generally informs the student's parents that a second 
marijuana offense will get him or her kicked out of the residence hall.

Sometimes, after being caught, a student asks for and is granted a 
24-hour window so the student can call his or her parents first, said 
Keith Zaborowski, UNL's associate director of residence halls.

Not every school is buying into the parental notification trend.

UNL still allows a student to pile up three alcohol offenses before 
it calls home.

Creighton University rarely notifies parents of a first alcohol 
violation, doing so only if the student in question is dangerously 
intoxicated or belligerent, said Tayna Winegard, assistant vice 
president for student life.

Iowa State University only calls parents if college officials believe 
students are a serious threat to themselves or others.

"We haven't necessarily seen a lot of research that suggests a call 
home has a big impact, or that it's a useful tool for how to deal 
with students," said Sara Kellogg, Iowa State's interim assistant 
director of judicial affairs.

But Hastings College has seen a difference -- the school has sent out 
only 16 notification letters this year because the school's 1,100 
students have broken far fewer alcohol rules than in years past, 
Chesbrough said.

The college vice president has sent out only one letter this year 
notifying parents that their child is a second-time offender of the 
college's alcohol policy.

Not even those you'd expect to be infuriated by the zero-tolerance 
policy -- the students -- are actually all that bothered by it during 
the second year of parental notifications.

Some students wonder why the college doesn't treat them as 
independent adults, said Aaron Rouse, a Hastings senior and Vicki 
Rouse's middle child.

Most, though, simply have accepted the policy like they accept 
midterms and calculus.

"My parents always joke around, reminding me that they are footing 
the bill here, and I realize what that means," Aaron Rouse said. 
"Most students realize that if they get caught, they have to accept the call."

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Policies at area colleges

UNL Residence hall officials generally call parents after a first 
marijuana offense and a third alcohol offense. On rare occasions 
parents are called sooner if a student damages school property or 
verbally abuses a police officer, university employee or fellow 
student while intoxicated.

Creighton Creighton notifies parents if an underage student is caught 
severely intoxicated. Most underage students caught with alcohol must 
violate the alcohol policy three times before parents are notified.

UNO The campus' judicial officer handles the notification policy on a 
case-by-case basis, but parents are usually notified when an underage 
student is caught possessing alcohol.

Hastings College Sends a form letter to parents every time a student 
violates the college's drug and alcohol policy. The college toughened 
notification policy two years ago.

UNK Notifies parents if a student is hospitalized or jailed for 
severe intoxication. Otherwise handles alcohol and drug violations on 
case-by-case basis, with an increased chance of parental notification 
if the student is a repeat offender.

Iowa State Does not notify parents of a drug or alcohol offense 
unless campus administrators deem the student a serious danger to 
himself or others.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom