Educational Editorial: Dealing with drugs in schools

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Fairfax County is looking at its procedures in dealing with young people who have been found with drugs. The review has been provoked by high profile cases involving young people who have been expelled, suspended, or required to change schools.

First, the law in Virginia, while taking a tough stand, complicates the issue. In one sentence it says that school boards "shall" expel students who are caught with drugs. In the next sentence it says that school boards "may" apply different discipline if it finds that the circumstances warrant it.

Fairfax has taken a strict interpretation and has automatically expelled each student…636 of them in the school year 2009-10.

However, only 166 cases actually went to the board, the only entity that can exp ell in Virginia…and five students, out of 174,000, were kicked out permanently.

Now here is the tension. How can school administrators and boards both ensure the safety of ALL students while being sensitive to EACH student? In a recent meeting a school board member said, "My fundamental value is justice…and justice means mercy…and the opportunity to redeem."

In reality, parents want justice for every one else's children but mercy for theirs. Justice does not mean mercy…it means fairness. Having heard expulsion cases for years, some truly break your heart…but in the end, you had to realize that you had a greater responsibility to protect the rights of everyone than you did the rights of someone.

Another school board member commented, "I am haunted by some of the decisions made by this school board and staff…and I think we've made some decisions that have been life altering." I certainly hope so!

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