Chilliwack school district sticks with drug and alcohol policy – for now

Chilliwack school district’s drugs and alcohol policy will remain as is, but that doesn’t mean changes aren’t coming down the pipe.

Chilliwack school district’s drugs and alcohol policy will remain as is, but that doesn’t mean changes aren’t coming down the pipe.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Chilliwack Board of Education approved to keep Policy 500, Drugs and Alcohol, as is at the recommendation of the Education Policy Advisory Committee.

The committee, which has representation from trustees, administration, teachers, support staff, parents and students, felt students needed the boundaries outlined in the policy.

“The students [on the committee] spoke very clearly and unanimously in that we needed to maintain our position in this policy,” said trustee Doug McKay, who sits on the committee.

The only trustee in opposition of the current policy was trustee Barry Neufeld.

Neufeld, a former probation officer and restorative justice facilitator with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, said the policy is a disservice to a large portion of Chilliwack’s student body.

“With all due respect to the students on this committee, I don’t really think they adequately represent the kids who are struggling and don’t feel connected to their community,” said Neufeld.

“This policy is archaic, punitive, and not worthy of a modern education system.”

Neufeld said the policy, which encourages a drugs- and alcohol-free school environment, does more harm than good.

“Students with addiction problems, they have a disease, they’re sick. When they’re going through troubling times, removing them from their friends and school environment will only make it worse,” he said.

“If we’re really serious about wanting to increase graduation rates, then this policy is totally out of sync.”

But policy is a belief statement, not a directive, said trustee McKay.

Where changes may still occur is in the drugs and alcohol regulation, which is a directive created by senior management and administration.

Currently, that regulation is zero tolerance for secondary school students.

Supt. Evelyn Novak told The Progress the drugs and alcohol regulation will undergo a review sometime in January or February, in which principals and vice principals will have an opportunity to provide input.

She also said students and parents may also be surveyed.

“We’re going to take a look at the research, what’s working and not working, how this fits with what we currently want to happen, and how we work with students,” said Novak.

A couple of incidences this year was the impetus for the district taking a closer look at its drugs and alcohol policy and regulation.

In September, 10 Grade 12 students at Sardis secondary were expelled for admitting to smoking marijuana while on a school-sanctioned soccer tournament.

“I think because of the number of students at one time, because of the groups involved, it shone a light on the policy and regulation,” said Novak. “And we had feedback from parents and students.

“We want to be responsive to our staff, as well as our community.”