It is encouraging to see the Escambia County School Board looking at ways to
amend the zero-tolerance policy on drugs. Finding ways to bring the use of
judgment back into the mix is welcome.
The new proposal by board member Gary Bergosh is certainly worth
considering. He would put a "safe harbor" provision into the policy.
Basically, it would protect students from expulsion if they voluntarily turn
drugs over to school officials.
If nothing else, it gives students who might have been caught up in a
situation not of their own making a place to turn. And while we expect that
such situations would be few and far between, it also opens up avenues for
students who might be guilty of bad judgment and who are looking for a way
[continues 309 words]
Having been a member of the Escambia County School District committee that
recommended the expulsion of the two young ladies at Pensacola High School
that "found" and "held" the pills, I find it interesting that the
zero-tolerance policy has once again been attacked by the media and other
In my mind, zero tolerance had little to do with this case. That is
because, I believe, most citizens would agree that any student who brings a
combination of pills to school that could be dangerous or even possibly
lethal should be expelled.
[continues 419 words]
Students Might Find `Safe Harbor` From Zero Tolerance
The Escambia County School Board wants to revamp its zero tolerance policy
on drugs, giving students a way out if they find themselves with drugs on
Board member Gary Bergosh suggested adding a "safe harbor" policy to the
School District's Rights and Responsibilities handbook that stipulates
students can turn in drugs to a faculty member without fear of expulsion.
"It would basically say if someone found drugs or realized they brought a
prescription drug with them to school, they could turn it in to the
administration or a teacher and automatic expulsion would not apply," he
[continues 539 words]
The decision by a hearing officer to reject "zero tolerance"
expulsions for two Escambia County students was absolutely correct.
The students, enmeshed in a confusing series of events surrounding a
bag of pills found on the Pensacola High School campus, were facing a
penalty far beyond the seriousness of the matter.
Clearly, the School Board needs to take a long and serious look at its
zero tolerance policy with an eye to revising it with some
The hearing officer, local attorney John Allbritton, nailed the matter
in his written order:
[continues 386 words]
What's the big deal? Most people would be fired for reporting to work high.
Why are teachers different?
I have interacted with dozens of addicts, both active and recovering. Like
cancer, addiction is a progressive disease. However, addicts choose this
illness when they take the first drug. Addiction is a mental illness, but
even schizophrenia is treated more successfully. Most addicts relapse often.
Like pedophilia, addiction has no foolproof treatment. Would anyone
tolerate a pedophile teaching their children?
Addicts are a threat to others. They are among the most dangerous people,
and can be violent, erratic and paranoid even when sober.
[continues 92 words]
I'm ashamed of the Escambia School District and board. Yes, the teacher who
used cocaine committed an inexcusable act, but this situation should have
been handled privately and within the law. Instead, I have watched the
superintendent and board misuse the media to whip up a frenzy and humiliate
Someone had to tell the News Journal whose personnel file to request.
Someone had to call all those media outlets to tell them every time a
hearing was scheduled. Someone had to decide that he himself was without
sin and was entitled to cast the first stone - privately, publicly and on
[continues 108 words]
The sad case of a 15-year-old Pensacola High School honor student, caught
up in a mess over a bag of pills that now threatens her college future,
speaks volumes of the errors of an iron-clad "zero tolerance" drug policy.
And the pending expulsion of Teresa Elenz appears to be one such error.
So far as we can tell, no one challenges Elenz`s story: that she discovered
a bag of pills on the PHS campus, picked them up out of curiosity and then,
well aware of the penalties for drugs at school, panicked. She hesitated to
put them down again or toss them in a wastebasket for fear of being seen.
She decided against turning them in to a teacher, again fearing the
consequences of possession.
[continues 290 words]
Contract Still To Give Staffers Second Chance
The name Robbie Sites will haunt the Escambia County School Board for a
long time to come.
The teacher who reported to work high on cocaine and then won the right to
keep his job made national news and frustrated the School Board and
Superintendent Jim Paul. Board Chairman John DeWitt and Paul said they
should have the right to terminate Sites for his action.
But, according to his contract, they did not.
Although Sites resigned after winning in court, board members want to make
sure they're not in that situation again.
[continues 223 words]
The News Journal's Aug. 13 editorial offered excellent advice on preventing
adolescent drug use. The importance of parental involvement in reducing
drug use cannot be overstated. School-based extracurricular activities have
also been shown to prevent drug use. They keep kids busy during the hours
they're most prone togetting into trouble.
In order for drug education to be effective it has to be credible. The most
popular recreational drug and the one most closely associated with violent
behavior is often overlooked by parents. That drug is alcohol, and ittakes
far more lives every year than all illegal drugs combined. Alcohol may
belegal, but it's still the number one drug problem.
[continues 346 words]
I am aghast that there is even a chance that any teacher that shows up to
work under the influence can get their job back. I am even more perplexed
they think they are entitled to that job.
I realize that during the Clinton years this type of misconduct became not
only expected, but rather chic. Get over it, the Clinton years are over. In
a day when a student can and will be expelled for a pair of nail clippers
or an aspirin, I would expect all in the profession of teaching, including
the teachers union, to set an even higher standard for themselves.
Belonging to a union - or is it a club? - does not give anyone the right
for misconduct and to expect a second chance. By the way, cocaine use is
still illegal the last I looked! -
It's unfortunate the school principal wants to continue discriminating
against the teacher that tested positive for cocaine. Drug abuse is an
illness and the teacher should be treated as such.
Society, especially the school system, has become extremely tolerant
of all types of people, such as gays and transgendered. But they
continue to discriminate against people who suffer from drug
dependency. This teacher should be allowed to remain in his teaching
position provided he attends the mandated counseling and treatment.
[continues 73 words]
When I read anything more ridiculous than Noelle Bush getting tested
negative for the prescription drug Xanax and being jailed for just having
it in her purse, I'd like to hear it.
A lady I used to know took Xanax along with six other medications daily.
What an outrage!
REV. PAM SIMS, Pensacola
The recent reports that youth substance abuse has decreased is
exciting news for Northwest Florida. This decrease reflects the
efforts of parents, teachers, law enforcement and many local
organizations. While this is good news, we must not see it as an
indication that we can stop our prevention efforts.
For several drugs including tobacco, Northwest Florida youth report
higher incidents of abuse than our state averages. For example, while
Florida lifetime incidents of marijuana use by youth is 37 percent,
the Escambia County rate is 42 percent.
[continues 537 words]
There's no reason to criticize Circuit Judge Nickolas Geeker for his
ruling that the Escambia County School Board must rehire a teacher who
was fired for testing positive for cocaine on the job. A judge's job
is to follow the law, and that appears to be just what Geeker did.
If the situation is to be changed, it must come in the contract
negotiated between the School District and the teachers' union. The
current contract calls for all discipline to be progressive. While
that makes sense for lesser problems, it doesn't seem to make any
distinction for dealing with serious offenses.
[continues 150 words]
Escambia School District and teachers unions officials are taking the
right step in coming together to rework contract language that left
the district unable to fire a teacher who came to school high on cocaine.
Under the current contract, in the absence of criminal charges the
specific question of a teacher testing positive for drugs is not
spelled out. So it is handled under contract language calling for
progressive discipline for employees who err in some other way, such
as abusing alcohol.
[continues 289 words]
The new "designer" drugs reaching the streets of Northwest Florida are
more than just a headache for law enforcement. They reinforce the need
to utilize the most potent weapon in the anti-drug arsenal.
Many of us have heard the radio commercials touting parents as the
"anti-drug." Research supports that. Contrary to what many might
believe, children do listen to mom and dad. If they deliver an honest,
informed anti-drug message, their children will listen.
More, mothers and fathers can influence their children`s behavior by
paying attention and by exerting needed control. Parents can have a
positive impact by:
[continues 170 words]
RE: Random drug testing on students. The target: the students who
participate in after-school activities.
Is it not probable that these students as a whole have higher grades
than the total student body?
Why not random drug test the following?: The President of the United
states and all his staff; Congress and all their staff; the Cabinet
and all their staff; all governors and all their staffs; the Senate
and House and all the legislatures of the states and all of their
staffs; all county commissioners and their staffs; all school system
employees, including the school superintendent, school board and
teachers; all city council persons and their staffs; all law state,
local and federal enforcement.
Big question: Will the local school systems, Santa Rosa and Escambia,
accept the federal bribes to violate the Fourth Amendment of
high-school students? - William O. Jones, Jay
The latest report that drug and alcohol abuse are at their lowest
levels in a decade is cause for celebration and points to the
influence that parents and adults can have on young people.
The survey clearly points out that young people are heeding warnings
from their parents and other adults about the dangers of drug and
alcohol abuse, and the outcome is bringing positive results.
The findings in the survey, conducted at schools contracted with Pride
Surveys to question students during the 2001-02 academic year,
reinforce the long-standing belief that parental influence plays an
integral role in the choices their children make.
[continues 223 words]
The movement to end the prohibition of a plant called hemp is turning a
blind eye to the negative consequences. An end to this prohibition would
hurt big business!
The timber industry would be hurt because you get 4.1 times the wood pulp
from an acre of hemp compared to an acre of timber. It takes one-sixth the
chemicals to process hemp into paper as compared to timber.
The fossil fuel industry could vanish. Because the hemp plant is one of the
most efficient with photosynthesis, it produces potent biomass products
(methanol for fuel cells) which would reduce our need for petroleum.
[continues 111 words]
Re "High court's drug ruling won't affect local schools," June 28: Escambia
County School Superintendent Jim Paul and Santa Rosa County Superintendent
John Rogers have good reason to question the value of student drug testing.
Student involvement in extracurricular activities like sports has been
shown to reduce drug use. They keep kids busy during the hours they are
most likely to get into trouble. Forcing students to undergo degrading
urine tests as a prerequisite will only discourage such activities.
[continues 132 words]