Westborough School Committee to re-evaluate district's chemical health policy

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WESTBOROUGH, Mass. - After two recent alcohol related accidents in town resulted in serious injury to several teenagers involved, the Westborough School Committee decided Wednesday night to re-evaluate the chemical health policy found in the in the 2010-2011 Westborough High School Student Handbook – a move prompted by the Westborough Police Department's determination that the operators of the vehicles were both under 21 and under the influence of alcohol.
On Sept. 8, Andrey L. Golenko, 19, was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, causing serious bodily injury, operating so as to endanger, speeding, failure to keep within marked lanes and operating a motor vehicle without a license, after the car he was driving was involved in a one-car accident in which the passenger of the car, Ilya Bely, 18, suffered extensive internal injuries. Both Golenko and Bely were ejected from the car during the accident.
Four days later, at 4:09 a.m., on a Sunday morning, four Westborough teenagers were injured when the 2000 Toyota they were traveling in crashed into a tree at 92 Ruggles St. The operator of the vehicle, Vaugn Sewell, 18, of 74 Powder Hill Way Westborough, was treated at the scene for injuries to both arms and a leg. He was transported to U.Mass Medical Center by ambulance. One of the passengers had to be extricated from the car using the Jaws of Life.
Westborough Police said on the day of the accident that Sewell would be summoned to the Westborough District Court and could face charges of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), causing serious bodily injury, operating a motor vehicle without a license, speeding, failure to keep within marked lanes and operating so as to endanger. To date, Sewell has not been charged with any of the above offenses.
The committee’s decision to review the chemical health policy was discussed when Superintendent of Schools, Marianne O’Connor asked the committee to formally approve the student handbooks that are distributed to all the students in the Westborough School System.
“In light of what’s happened recently in town, I think we need to take another look at the chemical health policy that’s in this handbook,” School Committee member Craig Harris said, holding up the 2010-2011 Westborough High School Student Handbook. “My main concern is centered on the difference in students that participate in activities and athletics and students who don’t.”
According to Harris, the school district’s chemical health policy as it is laid out in the 2010-2011 Westborough High School Student Handbook creates a double standard.
“If you’re a student at Westborough High School and you don’t participate in activities or band or athletics and you get busted on the weekend by a cop, somewhere else – not on school grounds – there are no consequences awaiting you when you go back to school Monday morning,” Harris said. “But if you’re involved in an activity, or in the band, or you participate in athletics and you get busted, you’re required to serve a penalty that a student who isn’t involved in an activity, or in the band or in athletics isn’t required to serve. That’s a double standard. That isn’t fair.
“I think we need to make changes to our chemical health policy so that the consequences of violating that policy are the same for students who participate in an activity, or in the band, or in athletics, as they are for students who don’t participate in an activity, or in the band, or in athletics,” Harris said.
School Committee member Karen Henderson suggested referring the matter to the School Committee’s Policy Subcommittee, which is scheduled to meet in the next few weeks.
School Committee member Steve Doret said that when the Policy Subcommittee takes up the matter they need to be sure the policy is in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws.
“Given that this issue is going to address things that happen when school is not in session and occur away from school grounds, the Subcommittee will have to make sure that whatever amendment to the policy that they come up with, it is in sync up with Mass. General Laws,” Doret said. “And I also think the Subcommittee should get the advice of the Westborough Police department and the Westborough Town Counsel, as well our own counsel, before deciding what the amended chemical health policy should be.”
Henderson said that the amended policy should also be in line with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (MIAA) chemical health policy.
A review of both chemical health policies show they currently differ.
The chemical health policy in the MIAA’s 2009-2011 Handbook states, in part that a student athlete, “shall not, regardless of the quantity, use, consume, possess, buy/sell, or give away any beverage containing alcohol; any tobacco product; marijuana; steroids; or any controlled substance.”
Student athletes that violate the above policy, found in section 62 on page 55 of the MIAA 2009-2010 Handbook, shall, “lose eligibility for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 25 percent of all interscholastic contests in that sport. No exception is permitted for a student who becomes a participant in a treatment program. It is recommended that the student be allowed to remain at practice for the purpose of rehabilitation.”
Student athletes found guilty of a second and subsequent violations of the MIAA chemical health policy shall “lose eligibility for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 60 percent of all interscholastic contests in that sport.”
The 2010-2011 Westborough High School Student Handbook, however, states that students found to be in violation of the Westborough school district’s chemical health policy – which is almost word-for-word the same as the MIAA’s chemical health policy – “will be ineligible to participate in extra-curricular activities for a period of six weeks,” but if “he/she agrees to participate in an approved counseling program, the student’s ineligibility will be reduced to four weeks."
The chemical health policy in the 2010-2011 Westborough High School Student Handbook says that students found guilty of second and subsequent violations “will be ineligible to participate in extra-curricular activities for 12 weeks.”
The Westborough High School chemical health policy goes on to say that if a student found guilty of second and subsequent violations “becomes a participant in an approved chemical dependency program or treatment program, the student may be certified for reinstatement in activities after a minimum period of six weeks.”
The policy also states, however, that “certification of an approved chemical dependency program or treatment program must be issued by the director of the program or a counselor of a chemical dependency treatment center.”

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