I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zero Tolerance to be Softened in Escambia County?

Flying under the radar of this year's contentious state legislative session, a change to Florida Law regarding Zero Tolerance has been made. 

Previously, Weapons, Firearms, Bomb-Threats, and Drugs were identified under state statutes as "Zero-Tolerance" infractions--and local boards of education were charged with developing codes of student conduct which addressed these issues as "Zero Tolerance" offenses

The latest version of the state statute removes Drugs from the list and combines Firearms and Weapons into one category.  This latest version requires local districts to   "Define criteria for reporting to a law enforcement agency any act that occurs whenever or wherever students are within the jurisdiction of the district school board. "

I understand there has been a major backlash to Zero Tolerance--as around the country stories emerge of honor students going to boot camp for bringing midol to school, or the eagle scout honor student who got expelled for bringing a nail clipper (weapon) to school.  These stories have turned public opinion away from Zero Tolerance.

I understand that common sense must come into play when crafting rules of student conduct.

But I also think taking a step backward in Escambia County by taking drug possession/use off of the list of Zero Tolerance offenses is a serious mistake.

Like it or not--there are drugs in our schools.  Monthly, we kick out 10-15 students for drug possession.  (This represents the ones we actually catch)

On a personal note, my own son came home from middle school and told me one of his classmates brought "weed" to school and showed it ot him.

Kids bring dangerous illegal drugs to school with the intent to sell these drugs to other students, and as the economy continues to deteriorate, I believe this will be a situation that continues and may even worsen.

If we water down zero tolerance to eliminate drug possession as an offense, what message will that send to students and parents?

I am advocating, and I have been advocating for some time now--for a comprehensive drug eradication policy in our school district, to include:

1.  An increase in the frequency of drug dog searches, with a managed approach that is measurable.
2.  Zero Tolerance for bringing illegal drugs to school-for students and employees.
3.  Implimentation of a district-wide "Campus Crime-Stoppers" toll free hotline number and website where students can anonymously report criminal/drug activity in our schools and receive cash rewards
4.  Drug testing for those students who wish to participate in Extracurricular Activities

I am in favor of due process, and that is why I fought hard to have a safe harbor provision put into our school board policy.

But I have zero sympathy for drug dealers in school.  Zero sympathy.

Bottom line:  Drugs destroy lives, and watering down the punishment for those who seek to bring the infection of drugs to students in our schools is a mistake.  I will not vote to take drug possession out of the language for "Zero Tolerance" in our student handbook.  I will actively fight against such a dangerous and irresponsible move, because our children deserve to have schools that are safe and drug-free.

No comments: