By Justin Paulsen
When it comes to decisions that affect the safety and security of our children, it seems that those decisions are always met with a high level of scrutiny and emotion. This could not be more true than with the recent adoption of a few changes to our school athletic policy. As a parent who lobbied for what I believe were badly needed changes to the policy I think it is important to address some concerns and clear up the content of the policy changes.
With regards to the policy for addressing first time offenders: The newly adopted policy does not allow first time offenders a free pass. The newly adopted policy clarifies and potentially increases the penalties for first time offender athletes under athletic contract who use or are in possession of substances which violate the policy. The new policy also clarifies and intensifies the procedure that the student athlete must follow in order to regain eligibility and includes established mental health review and drug testing protocols that did not previously exist.
No portion of the newly adopted policy is contrary to posted recommendations of the Washington State Attorney General’s office and or State Health Education guidelines. While I have not fully vetted the Attorney General on this topic, based upon his office’s support of the “Start Talking Now” program, “Lets Draw the Line” program and the “RUaD” Coalition, it would appear that the stance taken by the district is agreeable with the AG’s offices position.
The policy as adopted is supportive of the OSPI Health and Fitness Learning Standards for High School Health Sections 2.4.5 – 2.4.7 by emphasizing the need for students to understand the legal implications of and dangers related to drug and alcohol use. Further, the policy includes legally based consequences (OSPI HSH 2.4.6) and addresses the viability of treatment in resolving drug and alcohol dependency (OSPI HSH 2.4.7).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the term “in the presence of” was removed from the school policy as basis of violation. It has been stated that “most schools” have policies prohibiting student athletes from being “in the presence of” drugs or alcohol. A review of athletic policies posted on-line reveals that most schools do not include this phrase in their policies because of the inherent pitfalls that it presents both on a legal and moral level.
The adopted phrasing is compliant with WIAA mandated standards and the omission of this phrase from the policy is neither at odds with the posted policy of the AG’s office or OSPI’s recommended student Health Curriculum which does not even address the topic.
As a parent I asked for the changes to be made to the policy so that my student athletes would be clear and aware of the consequences of their actions while at the same time allowing me – the parent – to determine safe boundaries for my child. I asked that the school board clean up a policy manual that was at best a confusing, rambling and generally unenforceable document.
The board did not in any way adopt a policy of enablement, but instead adopted a policy of accountability that allows parents to have clear and consistent dialogue with their children, school administration and coaches. I
I encourage everyone in the discussion to read the full document when it is posted on-line at the start of the school year. While there will continue to be differing sides to this discussion, it is good to see that by raising the topic, we have created a dialogue that is putting child safety and responsibility in front of the public eye and forcing us all to confront the issues facing our children today.