SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Zero Tolerance in Ketchikan
By Vicki Harsha


October 16, 2006

It is with great interest I have followed the letters regarding drug use and underage drinking among our young people and the effect it has on their lives. I whole-heartedly agree that young people must be taught responsibility and consequences for their actions; their choices and this may and could affect their future.

The one item I would like to draw attention to in Ms. Newlun's letter is she mentioned that the Ketchikan community has a "Zero Tolerance" for drinking. I have to disagree with her, the State of Alaska may have laws in place for minors arrested, and the State may have these minors suffer the consequences, but our community and school board no longer follows that belief. I also believe that the School District Policy had placed contradictions in how the policy should be adhered to.

This became apparent to me last year. The drug/alcohol/tobacco policy at the High School had been changed in the previous 3 years. With the new policy, the athletes that are randomly tested or caught have a "3 strikes, you're out policy". I was not aware of this until one of the basketball players, a stand-out player, was sitting on the bench during the Clarke Cochrane. I asked someone sitting near to me why, and they mentioned he had a bad test . I thought it was grades! He had had a positive urine test, and so he was required to miss some mandatory games, and possibly, more requirements, before he could play again, yet I was surprised he was even representing his team by sitting, in uniform, on the bench. That was the time I realized that the drug policy had changed with little or no input from parents, teachers or coaches. Was it just that I was not paying attention to this, or were the majority of other parents aware of the policy change?

I called the School District to get a copy of the policy, and read it quite extensively. I also talked with several coaches on their viewpoints regarding this change, and some of the coaches were not aware of it either. I also spoke with a couple of School Board members who explained why the change was put in place. Apparently, there are some students who may have trouble keeping their grades up, or some with a history of drug/alcohol use, and so the powers that be decided that to keep these kids in school, the drug policy should be re-structured so that the athletes that have these problems could get up to three chances to keep the sport as an incentive to keep them enrolled.

This brings up another thought. There may be the "A" student who gets cuts from tryouts, and does not make the team, because of their athletic ability. Yet, the student who struggles academically may have a history of substance abuse, makes the team. Doesn't this reward the athletic student and not the "A" student? Is winning more important than academics? Does this indicate to these students they only have to strive for better grades during the season of their sport of choice?

Also, in this new policy, the coaches have an option to stipulate their own policy. So, maybe a baseball coach might inform both students and parents, if you are caught once, you will not play. Whereas, a basketball coach, may adhere to the school board policy, and give a basketball player a 2nd or 3rd chance? What does this tell the other students? "Oh it's basketball, they get special treatment." That is what my student, who is a wrestler, stated to me!

Part of the reason I feel the new policy contradicts itself is the fact that a coach may decide, 1 strike, you are out and the parent can use the policy to fight that coach. I believe it should be a Zero Tolerance policy. No ifs, ands or buts. Period.

Kayhi is very small, and if one student tests positive, soon, the majority of the student body is aware of it. This is not because privacy laws are being broken, it is mostly because the student who tests positive tells one or two people, and it gets around. Maybe they are boasting, or maybe they are ashamed. But, they tell someone. So, the 3 strikes you're out message is the message being sent to the whole student body of Kayhi. Has it trickled down to the middle school students and now, elementary age? At 12 years old, that could be 6th grade!

In order for Ketchikan and this community to have a Zero Tolerance attitude, it must begin, not only at home, but also in our schools. There are already laws in the state that the court system must follow. Read the police report, the court records, some of these students being charged are 12 years old! And, if you look at the State Troopers report on any given day, this is not just happening in Ketchikan, but statewide! It would be interesting to know what the policies are in other school districts across the state. Have we as a generation, lowered our expectations of our children? We cannot do this to our kids.

Vicki Harsha
Ketchikan, AK

Received October 13, 2006 - Published October 16, 2006

About: "Raised in Ketchikan, 2 teenagers in Kayhi and parent volunteer/fundraiser for many sports, community and within the school district. Interested in other parents opinion of the drug policy."




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