WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — At present, any Westborough student found to be "knowingly in presence" of alcohol or drugs is subject to punishment under the current school policy.
That policy, which was recently clarified for definition, was questioned by some in terms of fairness at Wednesday's School Committee meeting.
"My concern there is that it becomes a very subjective policy," committee member Nicole Sullivan said, noting there should be a difference for students who choose not to smoke or drink. "I really, truly take issue as a parent and as an attorney."
The language, which has existed within the policy for seven years, according to Westborough teacher Roger Anderson, is intended to hold Westborough to "a higher standard."
"Substance abuse, being around it, is never good," Anderson said. "The language is there to allow a really good administration to make the correct decisions."
The rule does not apply to students who are not violating any laws. For example, a student dining with a parent who ordered a glass of wine would be exempted.
Westborough Public Schools made news last year with the proposal of a controversial drug-swabbing policy, but voted it down after public disapproval.
Committee chair Ilyse Levine-Kanji said she has fielded concerns from parents in opposition of the policy, but they did not want to speak out, for fear of being "ostracized."
Concerns included that some of their children felt they couldn't go out on weekends for fear of being in violation of the policy.
Maura Shunney, a Westborough parent and member of the policy subcommittee, said the main issue was not with the policy, but with the town's atmosphere toward drinking.
"If you can't go to someone's house where there isn't alcohol, then that's a big community problem that we have to deal with," Shunney said. "I think there are a lot of parents who are thankful to have a deterrent from going to these parties."
The current policy calls for a ban from all extracurricular activities for a period of six weeks upon first offense. Subsequent violations would result in a 12-week ban.
Either of these punishments could be reduced by enrolling in a voluntary treatment program. The policy is similar to that of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, said Athletic Director Johanna DiCarlo; although in that policy, only those caught participating in such activities could be punished.
DiCarlo also said, while noting she was not trying to take away from the importance of the discussion, that these cases were uncommon and generally amounted to between 12 and 14 in any given year.
"Things are happening all over the place, but we don't go looking for it," she said. "Should they make that choice and it's brought to us, we do then have to deal with it."