FROM FOR THE RECORD (Friday, June 28, 1996): An article in Thursday’s newspaper stated incorrectly that two “no” votes at the Spokane School Board meeting on Wednesday were the first in 18 months. A board member voted “no” on May 8 on a policy about change orders on public works contracts.
The Spokane School Board adopted a three-strikes-you’re-out policy on student drug and alcohol use Wednesday.
Students caught with drugs or alcohol three times in two years will be expelled from the district.
Board member Nancy Fike voted against the policy, which she helped craft, after three other board members changed it to make it tougher.
“These three board members took a stand and I’m in 100 percent agreement,” said Nancy McLaughlin, a parent and member of the district’s citizens advisory committee.
“The policy could even be a little harsher,” McLaughlin said.
During 90 minutes of spirited debate, board members squabbled over whether students should get a clean slate each September.
The original proposal said students would be expelled only if they messed up three times in the same school year.
“In most businesses, you get a last chance and you’re out,” said board member Rob Fukai, who wanted a stronger policy.
Fike argued the policy was a huge improvement over the previous one, which gave principals too much leeway. But she said raising the stakes too high could hurt teenagers who make dumb decisions.
“I have two teenagers at home and the things they do every day you’d wonder if they had a brain in their head,” Fike said. “Sometimes they don’t look before crossing the street. And they learned that in kindergarten.”
Fike spent many months working on the policy in a committee and getting feedback from students, parents and principals.
At one point, Fike ribbed Fukai, saying, “You need to stay home more and see what children are like.” Then she added, “Just kidding.”
Board President Terrie Beaudreau was the first to criticize the yearly clean slate.
“I do not believe it’s a no-tolerance policy,” Beaudreau said. “We’re going to give them chances and chances and chances.”
Rocco Treppiedi, the newest board member, came up with the 24-month period, which pleased the majority.
The new policy states:
A student’s first offense requires parent notification, a two-day suspension and either a four-session intervention program, an assessment by a certified drug-alcohol counselor or an additional five-day suspension.
A second offense requires a long-term suspension and a plan for improvement before the student is readmitted to school.
A third offense within 24 months of the first requires expulsion.
Students caught selling drugs are expelled on the first offense. In the past, suspension for the remainder of the semester was required for selling drugs.
Mary Brown, a district administrator who oversees expulsions, told the board she learned from student feedback on the proposed policy.
“They cautioned us to be careful, especially with freshmen,” Brown said.
“There is such a proliferation of drugs they do not know it’s wrong. They get to high school and it’s like Disneyland. It does not register with them that there’s anything wrong with drug use.”
Lewis and Clark High Principal Mike Howson said he expects “only a handful” of students will accumulate enough drug and alcohol infractions to be expelled.
Fike’s “no” vote and an earlier one from Treppiedi as the board struggled to rewrite the policy were the first “no” votes for the board in at least 18 months.
The votes signaled a new willingness for board members to take an aggressive, public role in shaping policy.