A controversial policy requiring mandatory expulsions for drug offenses in schools has been revoked for Douglas County schools. The measure was passed unanimously by the school board. This change has some parents concerned, and others feel it is more in line with other district policies.

Mandatory Expulsion

Mandatory expulsion for drugs, weapons, assaults, and robbery was the norm before this change was made. The zero-tolerance policy did not allow for any flexibility in the rules and, according to the school board, “resulted in unnecessary expulsions, out-of-school suspension, and referrals to law enforcement agencies.” School officials are pleased that they now can assign punishments on a case-by-case basis which may include leniency for first-time offenders or for alternate punishments that may suit the situation better.

School officials can still determine to expel a student if the situation warrants. However, it now gives them the ability to assign drug rehabilitation or other forms of discipline with the goal of helping the child overcome their problems. The measure allows students to have a second chance if the case warrants. However, school board President David Ray wants to ensure the public does not misinterpret the reasons for the change. He stated, “We want to be real clear that this does not provide leniency in terms of encouraging students that now it’s OK to bring drugs to school.”

Concerns About Lenience

The change in the verbiage from “shall” be grounds for expulsion to “may” be grounds for expulsion have some parents worried, though. Some parents feel that this is a step in the wrong direction and will not help the children as intended. There is a particular concern regarding the statistics correlating drug use in children and suicide. Some parents feel this is a step in turning a blind eye toward a growing problem in the schools.

However, the school board and many other parents disagree and feel this allows age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate discipline that is already in place for other offences. It also affords the student due process in pleading their case as opposed to blanket expulsion.

While the measure has been passed, school officials also state that this is not the end of the discussion. They will be looking at ways to educate and provide resources to the officials who will be implementing the policy to ensure they have the tools needed to make the proper decision. District staff also indicated the issue would be readdressed soon.