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Chilliwack parents call for flexibility in punishment policy
A group of Sardis secondary school parents are actively pushing the school district to soften its regulation on drugs and alcohol following the expulsion of their children last week.
Ten of 12 Grade 12 students were expelled from Sardis secondary last week after they admitted to smoking marijuana during an overnight soccer tournament in Surrey. The soccer team was also disbanded.
Most of the students involved have had no prior behavioural incidents, have good grades, and athletic reputations.
The parents agree the students should be punished, but say expulsion goes too far.
"Most of these kids are top-notch kids" said parent Derek Middleton. "They made a bad decision, and they're now being hit with the hammer for it."
Last Monday, the students were called in for a one-on-one meeting with their principal after the school's administration had been notified the group smelled of marijuana at the tournament. All but one admitted to smoking marijuana.
At that time, all were told they could no longer attend Sardis secondary and would be sent to another high school in the district. They were sent home and their parents were later notified by phone.
Since then, two have been readmitted.
Middleton, along with the other parents, met with principal Diego Testa last Thursday to plead their case, but to no avail.
"They keep telling us their hands are tied by policy, but if that's the case, then change it," said Middleton.
"Kicking them out of school is in no way any step towards solving the problem. They're teenagers, they need discipline and coaching… by rejecting them and neglecting to take the time to counsel them and encourage them back on the right path is the easy way out."
Middleton wants the school district to change its regulation into something that would look at infractions on a more individualized basis. He would also like to see schools adopt an approach to discipline more in line with restorative justice – where those who break the rules aren’t isolated from the system, but taught the value of working with it.
Make the students do community service, write an essay, perform a speech in front of the entire student body, he said.
"Make them more accountable."
School district officials have taken note.
"This particular incident has sparked further discussion regarding the admin regulations and we are going to be looking at doing a review of it in the future," said assistant superintendent Rohan Arul-Pragasam.
But for the students at the root of this incident that review won't be soon enough. Their expulsions stand.
The students can apply for readmission next semester, but their parents feel the damage will have already been done.
With it being their Grade 12 year, they're already facing a lot of pressures with their studies, and applying for universities, scholarships, etc..
"It can cause stress, depression, it's the kind of thing that ends up with a kid leaving school permanently," said Middleton.
"What kind of learning tool is that for these kids? What are you teaching them?"