The Ultimate Crisis:

Drugs and Discipline

 

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The Ultimate Crisis:

Drugs and Discipline

 

Henry Rodgers: Okay, Frank, youíve heard what the parents have said. Iíd like you to tell us all: What in the Hell is going on with this school?

Frank (rising): Thank you, Henry. I know that this is a very important meeting, much discussed in the community. Thatís why I think itís essential that the dilemma before us is thoroughly understood (walking to the board). With your permission Iíd like to discuss what I feel are four categories of issues.

Henry (not patiently): Okay, okay. Letís just get going.

Frank: I group them under these categories (he pointed to the board):

1. Legal
2. Professional
3. School Mission
4. Personal
5. Expulsion

John Board (board member): Will you just get to the point, please?

Board (murmuring): Grumble

Frank: Yes, John, I will, but as some parents here have pointed out, weíre discussing a very important issue, the education of children. On such subjects I commonly spend a lot of time.

John: Okay, okay.

Frank: Letís start with the legal issues. From the parents who just presented, we were given a fairly convincing argument against expelling their children. Not to do them any injustice, I want to say that the parents presented a strong case.

Mr. Wright: Not strong. Winning. You havenít enough legal ground on which to plant a blade of grass.

Frank: Well, Iíve been thinking through the legal aspects of this case as presented by Mr. Legalle. Essentially, they are saying that the statements I obtained from the students are inadmissible as evidence because they took place during my questioning of students under duress. Am I correct, Mr. Wrignt?

Mr. Wright: Exactly. Theyíre minors and they were questioned in the absence of their parents. Under such a situation, they might say anything. I would note that when you questioned Johnny Legalle, as due process requires, he confessed nothing.

Frank (smiling): Absolutely, your Johnny said nothing at that later meeting. All of the students have now retracted their confessions, except Melanie Fraser (nodding to Melanie). I have to come back to that word "minors" though.

Mr. Wright: You did scare them with the threat of the police! Of course, theyíd say anything. I think we have to drop the whole matter.

Frank (nodding): Yes, that was your point. Letís come back to the word "minors" though. If we want to take this "legalistic" view, I should warn that the courts specifically do not support the idea that the parents need to be present during disciplinary interviews with school officials. Now, if you want me to show the legal precedents, I will be happy to share them. Do you want to see them?

Mr. Wright (shaking his head): No.

Frank: Well, I would wish you good luck, but I must tell you that, in general, school law follows the concept of "en loco parentis." To put this into non-legal language, courts believe that, while at school, school officials function as a childís parent. If you think about it, it would probably seem pretty strange to some you to be questioning your child about some possible wrong-doing and have your child request a lawyer be present.

Board Members: Chuckle. Chuckle.

Frank: Yet, this is what is being suggested. Further, I have had an expert research the legal aspects of this situation and was informed that U.S. common law doesnít really apply to our situation. Now, I donít claim to be a legal expert, but the bottom line is this: My office is no more a police office than is your living room. Rather itís a place where I take actions to guarantee that all of your children obtain the best possible education. To conclude, then, legally, we can expel all six of the students-should we choose to do so.

MS. Facile, American Board Member: This is all very interesting, but please, be frank, Frank, and tell us why we should expel these young people.

Frank: Well, let me get there. I would like to talk about my legal responsibilities as Head. I believe that you all recall our discipline and drug policy, approved just three years ago by the Board, which states:

1. "Any student using, in the possession of, or under the influence of illegal drugs on school property or at any school function will be expelled from school immediately."
2. "Any student who has procured or sold drugs to other students shall be expelled, even though such sale or procurements may have taken place outside of the school."

As you know, all of the students being recommended for expulsion violated that rule.

Mr. Joint, American Board Member: Yeah, yeah, Mr. Frank, but you know that enforcement has been spotty. Not only that, kids are smoking it right and left around here. Why just punish these six?

Frank: As far as is possible, I have enforced this policy. Iím constantly working on tightening enforcement, but those caught are expelled. In this case, again, we have children who have admitted to violating this policy. As most of you know, we have previously expelled two other students under just this policy. Any sense of fairness would require doing the same in this case.

Mr. Joint: But in the community, you know they are smoking, toking, and joking!

Frank: For me, as a professional, this schools is the community, and the rules which the Board has written with me, must be my standards, administered as fairly as possible. I must make this school, the world in which our children learn, as good as is humanly possible. To say that a problem exists in the world doesnít necessarily mean we need our children to experience it, and weíve all agreed that drugs are a serious problem. Professionally, then, Iím duty bound to try expel this problem from the world of ASL.

Mr. Wright: You talk a lot about what "you believe." What about what we believe?

Frank: Thatís easy enough to find. Look at our school mission statement and our philosophy that relates to it. I donít have document here with me [not provided in the problem], but I know them well enough to discuss some common core beliefs. One is that the school should provide a learning environment. We agreed, the Board, myself, parents, that drugs destroy that learning environment. Form that mission statement, we derived those rule I quoted a moment before.

Mr. Wright (waving his hand): This is all fine. Next, youíll tell us about your personal beliefs. You can bet weíre all interested in them!

Frank: I probably shouldnít bring them up, but I will anyway, to make sure you know where I stand. I want to guarantee children a safe, achievement-oriented learning environment. I also adhere to a standard of honesty and integrity that will not me to endorse certain of the choices that I will now outline (he returned to the board and wrote them up) regarding a course of action:

1. Expel All 6
2. Punish Short of Expulsion
3. Expel Just Melanie
4. Expel None of Them

Henry: Wait, letís look at that last choice. Youíre advocating expelling none of them?

Frank: No, Henry, but I think we have to explore it as an option. If we were to do that, would we be consistent with the concepts of fairness, the mission of the school, and the school policy? What would be the message weíre sending to the kids about ASL?

Mr. Wright: Why introduce it just to reject it? Get on with it.

Frank: If we take the position of expelling just Melanie-

Mr. Fraser (Melanieís parent): Wait, Mr. Collins. Iíve sat through this meeting pretty patiently, but I have speak up. Melanie has told us the truth. Yes, she used hashish-once. She wonít again. We are willing to accept her expulsion, but if only she goes, where would the justice be in that?

Frank: I agree with you exactly. I respect Melanieís honesty. This is a good quality. Youíre right. Weíd have to question the fairness of this.

Henry (rubbing his chin): What about just, say, a six-month suspension. That would teach them a lesson, follow the policy, and give Melanie and the others something of a second chance.

Frank: I have to come back to two things. First, two other students were expelled under this policy. Second, the policy says expulsion, not suspension. Weíve identified a drug-free environment as vital to our school. Itís flows naturally from our philosophy. Can we say that we believe in our philosophy only sometimes or to some extent? This is our children weíre dealing with. Can we compromise on moral issues?

Mr. Wright: There we have it. You advocate expelling them all! Thatís your decision. Why waste all this time telling us what we knew already.

Frank: I want you, the Board, to understand the issues. Legally, we can expel these students. Professionally, I must recommend it. Our mission statement, our core beliefs, require nothing less. Personally, I couldnít live with myself if I advocated any compromise on this issue. I must, then, recommend that the Board vote for expulsion. Indeed, for the sake of our school and the children, on this I must stand.

Henry (after a considerable pause): Thank you, Frank. Members, having heard all sides of this argument, let us vote.

As the Board, voted, Frank looked at his notes. He planned to take a long shower after he arrived at his apartment. Already, though, heíd jotted down some ideas from his discussions with the principals, helpful hints in dealing with similar situations.

1. Review Current Drug Policy

Frank didnít expect any change in the Boardís position, even if this vote went against him. He did, however, want to re-affirm the Board and communityís support of this position. If the community wanted to establish a weaker position, so be it, but personally Frank doubted heíd remain as he felt strongly about this issue. If they voted for the current policy, heíd bring them back on board and shore them if further expulsions loomed.

2. Call in Parents When Questioning Students Regarding Drugs

This was more of a procedural issue. While Frank felt few would question his truthfulness regarding the remarks of children, he could see how a student, such as Melanie, might become nervous speaking to him, all alone, in his office. He considered it better to possibly not expel a drug-using student, if necessary, than to give the mistaken impression of coercing confessions from the innocent.

3. Establish a Regular Procedure Regarding Expulsion Hearings

Frank couldnít make up his mind, for certain, if he wanted to eliminate these hearings heíd allowed or make them a regular feature. He did know, however, that he wanted to be more consistent to eliminate accusations of bias. Frank hadnít enjoyed these hearings, but if he allowed them, he might be able to convince the Board that such hearings should take the place of Board hearings such as had dominated tonightís agenda.

4. Make the Drug Policy of ASL a Part of Student Orientation

Frank regretted, a bit, that Melanie had been duped, or doped, into smoking the hashish. He believed that if he made a stronger statement to incoming students, such as Melanie, as to the "zero-tolerance" policy, fewer would need expulsion. This needed real re-enforcement, especially, to students who came from some of the more permissive countries feeding into ASL.

5. Give the Faculty a Heads-Up Regarding Sensitive Issues

Frank didnít like living with the Union, but he had no choice on this. He couldnít stop them from talking about issues such as drugs, or even issuing "pronouncements." He could, though, influence their thinking by exercising some information management. In future cases, he planned on briefing them, not discussing, when students were found in similar circumstances. He would also remind them of ASLís policy regarding drugs. In the long run, he would make sure that new staff "bought into" the drug policy of the school.

6. Brief the Ambassador Regarding Expulsions

Frank realized, now, that the Ambassadorís wife could seriously damage his position in the school. In order to contain her influence, he needed to make sensitive issues, such as drugs, part of his occasional conversations with her husband. He had a more legitimate reason to bring drug issues up as they might effect embassy personnel, who might need to be transferred. Legitimate reasons aside, he needed to bring the Ambassador on board as he seemed destined to remain for quite some time.

7. Brief the Chairman Regarding Expulsions

Frank had not enjoyed being on trial. He understood Henryís position. As a relatively low level official, he felt extremely vulnerable to surprises such as the parentís visit to the meeting. Henry needed to be propped up by information so he felt more in control of the Board. Come to think of it, Henry needed considerably more training in his duties. Henry smiled as he thought how he would talk Henry into requesting him to give the Board a kind of workshop regarding their duties.

8. Shore Up the Leadership Team

Despite their pledges of fidelity tonight, Frank still didnít feel 100% secure that the leadership team could pull together without more work and practice. Leif, in particular, seemed to need to think more about the schoolís mission, the importance of the drug free environment. Frank, thankfully, had a whole folder of articles showing the destructiveness of hashish, articles not available back when Leif had been lived in the States. Frank had no problem with sharing them. He felt certain he could get Leif to work harder on enforcing the drug policy. With Leif on board, and a successful decision tonight, they might successfully eliminate drugs as an ASL issue. Then, again, they might not. Either way, he needed to have Leif doing his best job for the children.

Frank leaned back in his chair, a slight smile on his face, thinking about his future. He could see the faces of smiling, well-adjusted, straight, learners. As he watched, they aged, five, ten, eighteen years. He could imagine a bright future, and, better yet, for ASL.

That wonderful future for ASL, Frank thought, was better than any drug!

 

 

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