May 10, 2007
Nearly one year after an Albemarle County High School student was killed in what police called an alcohol-related crash, the district's school board is looking at a way to prevent underage drinking.
Currently, student athletes in Albemarle County Schools have to sign a pledge, promising not to drink or use drugs. But if approved, a new pledge could be a requirement for many more students, those in any extra-curricular activity.
The school district hopes it will keep students from drinking in the first place.
"We're not just singling out athletes anymore," said Billy Haun, the principal at Monticello High School. "Other students involved in other activities, whether they be club activities or academic activities, they're going to be held to the same standards that we've been holding athletes to."
The new pledge would be a requirement for students involved in any extra curricular activity. Like the athletics pledge, the new one includes a promise not to drink or use any illegal substance.
If students break it, they'll face consequences including expulsion from the activity.
"We wanted to say that this is a very important thing for our students, and we expect students that represent our school in anyway to uphold certain standards of behavior," explained Steele Howen, the Executive Director of Administrative Services in the Albemarle County School District.
"Whatever we can do, or perhaps need to do, within the school division to encourage young people to avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, we want to do," said Sue Bell Friedman, the chairperson of the county school board.
The change would also affect parents. They would have to sign the pledge as well, and if their student violates the pledge, the parent would be involved in deciding if they want the student to receive help from a counselor or if the student should be punished.
The issue of underage drinking comes up nearly one year to the day after an Albemarle County high school athlete was killed in what police said was an alcohol-related crash.
"The death of a student certainly was a big event, and we wanted to try to put some things in place so students would be able to see it as not just punitive but also helpful to them," said Howen.
"I think anytime you have a tragedy, you look back and say is there something we can do better? How can we serve our kids, and how can we help them be safe?" said Haun.
The first offense results in two weeks suspended from the activity, if the student agrees to get counseling.
The second offense carries a four-week suspension.
And on the third offense, the student faces a full year of expulsion from their activity.
The Albemarle County School Board is to hear information regarding the new policy Thursday night. They expect to make a decision later this year that would go into effect for the 2007-2008 school year.
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