Alcohol Policy On Tap At Meeting

Members of the Cambridge Public School Committee raised concerns last night about the latest revisions to the district’s policies on drug, alcohol, and other substance abuse, which represent an ongoing effort to update and clarify student-focused protocols.

The review began last term after the school district began to publish its policies online.

Committee member Patricia M. Nolan ’80 explained that the review process has helped shed light on outdated aspects of the regulations.

“When you clean it up you realize there is some messiness,” she said.

But even with revisions that have come about thus far, Nolan said she thought the policies needed to be more supportive of students.

“We have to understand that probably every one of us has made some mistake in our past,” she said. “How would we feel if this policy was applied to us, and do we think it’s an appropriate policy?”

Others pointed to “zero-tolerance” disciplinary actions as being problematic.

Committee member Luc Schuster questioned whether it was appropriate for a student who committed one infraction to receive a five day suspension, a possibility that the current policy allows.

“We want to make sure our intervention strategies are effective,” he said.

But Joseph G. Grassi, another committee member, said he disagreed with this concern, citing the availability of counseling and rehabilitation programs for students and their families.

“I’m personally hearing of a lot of children having second chances,” Grassi said. “There’s a lot of care that’s put into the substance abuse policy that I don’t believe exists in a lot of other communities.”

The two students on the committee, however, said they favored Nolan and Schuster’s viewpoint, arguing that current policy is not always fair for students.

“The high school should definitely be more supportive of students who have this offense,” said Cody Doucette, a student member of the school committee.

Marc McGovern, another adult school committee member, said that he recognized both sides of the debate.

“This has been our attempt to clean up our policies and make them more user friendly not only for the school committee, the administration, and the teaching staff, but also for the public,” he said.

He added that the revised policy will be reviewed by officials at the high school, and that permanent changes will be made based on their recommendations.

—Staff writer Michelle L. Quach can be reached at mquach@fas.harvard.edu.