School Committee Considers a Pair of Policy Changes

By Joan Bowen

SC-NewsThe Bedford School Committee discussed two policy changes at their September 9 meeting.

Both a change in the use of a breathalyzer at school dances and the  identification of students in the media remain under discussion. School Committee policy mandates that policy change proposals be voted at a subsequent meeting.

Breathalyzer for admittance to school dances

All high school students attending school dances soon may be required to pass a breathalyzer test (Alcoblow) in order to be admitted.  Concern stemming from incidents last spring led to Principal Henry Turner’s proposal to the School Committee for a change in the current policy of breathalyzer use only on the basis of suspicion that a student has been drinking,

Aware of private parties where the use of alcohol by minors since last spring, Turner concluded that there is a need to strengthen the High School Administration’s ability to identify those arriving at an event having already consumed alcohol.  The policy will also authorize universal use of the breathalyzer at the end of a dance.  This is to address situations when it appears that alcohol has been hidden for consumption during the event.

If the policy is approved, in the future the High School Administration will determine whether or not to require a breathalyzer test for admission to every dance or to use it randomly.  Students will have the option of refusing to take the breathalyzer test.  In such situations, the student will be refused admission.  There is no current plan to use the breathalyzer at sporting events but it would be possible within the concept of the proposed policy.

When a change in policy is proposed, the School Committee’s practice is to hear the presentation of the change during one meeting but not to vote on approval of the policy until a second meeting.  In the interim, Principal Turner will detail the proposed change to parents via letter and offer the opportunity for discussion.  He will also utilize local media to articulate the proposed policy change.

Turner pointed out that the use of the breathalyzer will not detect drug use, something that has been identified as an issue with non-school events since last spring.  He repeatedly stated that it is vital to recognize that this is a community problem.  The High School can take some actions including educational programming but he thinks the community as a whole also needs to address the issues of alcohol and drug use.

Policy regarding permission to use names and pictures of students

Bedford Schools Superintendent Jonathan Sills recommended a change in policy related to the use of student pictures and names in the media.  With the objective of increasing the potential to showcase the educational value and achievements of Bedford Schools and its students, Sills wants to be able to include pictures and names of children from kindergarten through high school.   Some parents may object on the basis of security for their children as a matter of principle or individual circumstances based on safety.

He proposed that parents in all schools be contacted and provided with a form requesting permission for use of names and pictures.  Parents would have the option to respond “yes,” “no” under identified situations such as the linking of a picture and a name, or “no” under any circumstances.  The policy that he is requesting the School Committee approve is that in situations when there is no response, the default will be no restrictions related to that family.

School Committee members asked for further research on several questions including information on practices of other school districts in the area.  Other questions related to the process of securing permission, such as how distribution of the form would provide for our diverse population and how a parent’s restrictions will be effectively recorded and tracked.  Another question related to how permissions would be handled for recent graduates.

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