Pubdate: Mon, 19 Oct 2009
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2009 The Daily Record
Author: Laura Bruno
Bookmark: (Drug Test)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Student athletes caught drinking or using drugs or tobacco will be
given extra chances to get on the right track and return to teams in
Mountain Lakes and West Morris Regional.

The two districts revised their athletic codes of conduct this fall
mandating student-athletes who violate the rules undergo drug and
alcohol assessment by either a school's assistance counselor or a
private facility in order to eventually return to a team.

At least half-a-dozen local districts have in recent months taken a
second look at their athletic codes of conduct, which hold students
accountable for their behavior both in and out of school.

The Morris School District also made changes to its code this fall,
explicitly warning student-athletes that the high school will launch
an investigation if administrators receive information about possible
violations through pictures, anonymous or not, and internet sources.
The K-12 district, which has year-round behavior expectations, also
crafted a separate code for students involved in extracurricular
activities with the same rules and similar penalties as athletes.

School boards in Randolph and Madison are currently discussing changes
to their policies. Randolph now has a zero-tolerance policy that calls
for a student-athlete's removal from a team following a first
violation. Madison's policy needs tweaking because it has resulted in
unequal punishments depending on the sport, school officials have said.

All Morris County high schools have a separate code of conduct or
training rules for student-athletes, the majority of which spell out
barring players from using or possessing drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
Seven high schools hold students accountable during the season of
their sport, six say the rules are in effect for the school year and
five are year-round expectations.

In Mountain Lakes, student-athletes still are subject to removal from
a team for the season after a first violation. However, an athlete no
longer has to forfeit three consecutive seasons of team sports
following a second violation, according to the new athletic training

The new rules, enacted in late September, allow athletes to
participate in subsequent seasons after a second violation if they
undergo an alcohol and drug assessment with an outside facility and
agree to be subject to a 90 day random drug testing program.

In the 16 years the policy has been in place only four students were
cited for a second violation, said superintendent John Kazmark. And
two of them were seniors who did not suffer the full consequences of
the penalty.

In revising the rules, Kazmark said board members felt that if a
student was caught violating the policy twice it was more likely to
mean they have a problem and banishment from sports was not a helpful
response, he said.

"There was nothing therapeutic to the student," Kazmark said of the
old rules. "If they have a problem, let's try to address the problem."

A similar policy requiring counseling applies to students caught under
the influence of illegal substances in school, Kazmark said. Those
students are subject to random drug testing for the remainder of a
school year, he said.

A Mountain Lakes student-athlete who gets in trouble with the law for
reasons not related to substance abuse would have to complete an
individual "restitution" program which may mean 20 to 60 hours of
community service or the loss of school privileges such as open campus
liberties and free periods.

No time period is specified in the rules, Kazmark said the rules apply
solely to an athlete's season.

The West Morris Regional code underwent several changes, from setting
the school year as the time period the rules are in effect to covering
all students involved in extracurriculars, not just athletes and
creating a three-violation system of punishment.

Previously, the code did not specify the time-frame when students were
held accountable.

The code also says athletes and club members will be subject to the
district's general substance abuse policies which mandate a substance
abuse evaluation by a school counselor.

"To have a zero tolerance policy without counseling did students a
disservice," said West Morris Regional superintendent Anthony diBattista.

Consequences for a first violation remained the same -- a minimum
one-week team or activity suspension, not to exceed a two-game suspension.

A second violation previously resulted in expulsion from the team for
the season. Now, a second violation during a student's four-year
career means a minimum 14 day suspension. If the second violation
occurs within the same year as the first offense, a 21-day suspension
will be mandated.

A third violation within four years could result in a 30 day
suspension or "complete denial of the privilege" to participate in any
clubs or teams. 
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