By Tran Longmoore
The Saline Board of Education approved new policy language softening the athletics department’s stance with students who’ve used controlled substances.
The new policies, which impact student athletes in grades 5-12, are a result of the work done by a committee formed to look at the chemical health policy.
Saline High School Principal David Raft and Assistant Principal Kirk Evenson outlined the changes at the June 12 board meeting. The existing policy called for expelling students from teams if they were caught using, selling or distributing controlled substances or “look-a-likes.”
Evenson told the board that existing policies were a little ambiguous and weren’t being administered consistently. Evenson said existing policy discouraged troubled students from seeking help.
“Students who abused substances were not seeking help because of a policy that had harsh consequences. So instead, they were hiding their problems,” Evenson said.
Raft said that expelling students from sports could exacerbate substance abuse.
“We’d rather see them doing something positive after school than going home and potentially diving further into (substance abuse),” Raft said.
For first time offenders, there are three levels of disciplinary action. For those who self-disclose a violation, the athlete will remain in good standing to try out and participate with the team if they successfully complete an assessment/treatment program. The second level is admittance – for students who admit violating rules when asked by a coach or school official. This student will be suspended for 20 percent of the regular season contests while continuing to practice with the team. If the athletic department learns of a student’s violation of the rules without the cooperation of the student, the student will be suspended for 50 percent of the regular season. They will continue to practice with the team if they complete a number of steps.
According to Raft, coaches would have the ability to assess punishments greater than those listed above.
Superintendent Scot Graden said these athletes would still be subject to other in-school punishments, such as a two-month ban on extra-curricular events, including dances.
The penalties are stronger for students who continue to violate the rules.
A second violation will result in athletic suspension for the remainder of the season. A meeting with the Superintendent or his designee will be required to return to the sport in the future. A third violation will result in athletic suspension for the remainder of the student’s time in high school.
Graden said Saline’s new penalties are better aligned with those in neighboring school districts.
Trustee Paul Hynek said he was glad to see violations which encouraged students to reach out to coaches about their problems.
Trustee Karen Delhey said she appreciated the policy because it has repercussions for bad behavior while it allows students to stay involved in a healthy activity that can benefit them in the long run.
The Board voted 6-0 to approve the policy. Trustee Heidi Pfannes was absent.