Category J: Students
Procedure J7: Drug Use, Possession, And Distribution
Drug Abuse Services and Support
Any student who seeks, or whose parent/guardian seeks on their behalf, guidance regarding a drug problem from a school teacher, administrator or counselor will be provided with such guidance on a confidential basis provided that:
- The student is not observed on school grounds selling or possessing drugs, and
- The student’s actions or expressed intentions do not pose a threat to the safety of other students.
The District cannot provide support services directly but will provide referral services for local/regional drug support services.
Drug Use on School Property
Each and every suspected incident or suspected pattern of use, possession or trafficking in drugs is to be reported immediately to the principal or her/his designee. Any student who is suspected of, observed as, or has admitted to being under the influence of a drug must be immediately escorted to the office of the principal. All District personnel are under obligation to report any and all incidents of the use or possession of any drugs by students.
A search of a student’s person may include the use of a Breathalyzer or a urinalysis drug screen when there is reasonable suspicion to believe that the student is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. The refusal of a student to participate in the Breathalyzer test or urinalysis drug screen may lead to a disciplinary penalty equal to the offense of which the student is suspected.
Incidents involving use, possession or trafficking in drugs are considered violations of school rules and possibly the law if they occur in the school building, on school grounds, at school sponsored events, at activities or events which may be conducted off school grounds, on school buses, and at/around school bus stops during loading and unloading procedures. Any student who is observed using, selling or possessing drugs on school property will be reported to the police and will be temporarily suspended following a hearing by the Principal, pending review of their case by the superintendent. Disciplinary procedures will be consistent with Massachusetts General Law Chapter 71, Sections 37H, 37H ½ and 37H ¾.The following process, consistent with Massachusetts Regulations CMR 603.53.08, shall be followed:
The purpose of the hearing with the principal is to hear and consider information regarding the alleged incident, provide the student an opportunity to dispute the charges and explain the circumstances surrounding the alleged incident, determine if the student committed the disciplinary offense, and if so, the consequences for the infraction. At a minimum, the principal shall discuss the disciplinary offense, the basis for the charge, and any other pertinent information. The student also shall have an opportunity to present information, including mitigating facts, that the principal should consider in determining whether other remedies and consequences may be appropriate. The principal shall provide the parent, if present, an opportunity to discuss the student’s conduct and offer information, including mitigating circumstances, that the principal should consider in determining consequences for the student.
Based on the available information, including mitigating circumstances, the principal shall determine whether the student committed the disciplinary offense, and, if so, what remedy or consequence will be imposed. The principal shall notify the student and parent of the determination and the reasons for it, and, if the student is suspended, the type and duration of suspension and the opportunity to make up assignments and such other school work as needed to make academic progress during the period of removal, as provided in 603 CMR 53.13(1). The determination shall be in writing and may be in the form of an update to the original written notice.
Based on the evidence, the principal shall determine whether the student committed the disciplinary offense, and, if so, after considering mitigating circumstances and alternatives to suspension as set forth in 603 CMR 53.05, what remedy or consequence will be imposed, in place of or in addition to a long-term suspension. The principal shall send the written determination to the student and parent by hand-delivery, certified mail, first-class mail, email to an address provided by the parent for school communications, or any other method of delivery agreed to by the principal and the parent. If the principal decides to suspend the student, the written determination shall:
- Identify the disciplinary offense, the date on which the hearing took place, and the participants at the hearing
- Set out the key facts and conclusions reached by the principal
- Identify the length and effective date of the suspension, as well as a date of return to school
- Include notice of the student’s opportunity to receive education services to make academic progress during the period of removal from school as provided in 603 CMR 53.13(4)(a)
- Inform the student of the right to appeal the principal’s decision to the superintendent or designee, but only if the principal has imposed a long-term suspension of more than ten (10) days. Notice of the right of appeal shall be in English and the primary language of the home if other than English, or other means of communication where appropriate, and shall include the following information stated in plain language:
- The process for appealing the decision, including that the student or parent must file a written notice of appeal with the superintendent within five (5) calendar days of the effective date of the long-term suspension; provided that within the five (5) calendar days, the student or parent may request and receive from the superintendent an extension of time for filing the written notice for up to seven (7) additional calendar days; and that
- The long-term suspension will remain in effect unless and until the superintendent decides to reverse the principal’s determination on appeal.
If the student is in a public preschool program or in grades K through 3, the principal shall send a copy of the written determination to the superintendent and explain the reasons for imposing an out-of-school suspension, whether short-term or long-term, before the suspension takes effect.
Possession of drug paraphernalia will be punished with confiscation of materials and a two-day suspension for a first offense. Subsequent offenses will be punished by confiscation of materials, a four-day suspension and possible referral to the Amherst Police Department.
Staff is not protected under the confidentiality statutes of the Commonwealth, and if called on to testify in court, they would be obligated to reveal any information relating to drugs even if voluntarily confided to them by the students.