Spelling Out the Policy
Many school officials say they are in the process of revising their rules - a process they go through every year. Jess Butler, principal at Lago Vista High School, says that discipline policies, even something that sounds as straightforward as zero tolerance, are often difficult to interpret and need constant adjusting. "What do you do if there's two sixth graders pushing each other in the hallway? That's a scuffle, and I don't think the police want to be called for two sixth graders in a scuffle," he says. "It's easy to decide the big-ticket issues like guns. But when you get beyond that, it gets down to the call of the building principal." Here's a look at the policies of various area school districts:
Austin Independent School District
AISD's zero-tolerance policy mandates an expulsion hearing for students accused of possessing weapons or of assaulting a staff member, with a minimum of six weeks' expulsion for those found guilty. Drug and alcohol offenses are listed as "serious offenses" which warrant "parent conferences, confiscation of the item, detention, or any other appropriate discipline management technique."
Dripping Springs ISD
The district lists seven "suggested consequences" for violation of the schools' anti-drug and weapon rules. Each school's principal is allowed to choose from among the following: alternative education plan, suspension, expulsion, long term-detention, Saturday school, bus removal, and drug or alcohol abuse counseling.
EISD permits car and locker searches, and if a student is found to be guilty of possessing contraband, the policy states that "appropriate measures will be taken," including the possibility of referral to a rehabilitation program.
Hays Consolidated ISD
The Discipline Management Plan/Code of Student Conduct characterizes as "serious" offenses: assault, drug and alcohol possession or use, arson, and possession of a weapon. Students who violate the policy may be placed on suspension for up to six days per semester. Assault, however, can get a student expelled. "First time personal possession of marijuana, alcohol, or other prohibited substance is limited to not more than 10 consecutive days per semester home-based instruction..."
Lago Vista ISD
Lago Vista also allows administrators to search students' cars and lockers for contraband. If illicit substances are found, "the student may be subject to appropriate action, including removal and/or expulsion. The student's parent(s)...will be notified if prohibited substances are found in searches conducted under this policy."
According to the Code of Student Conduct, students who violate the district's drug, alcohol, and weapon policies may be expelled for these offenses (emphasis added), with the school board having final authority over any expulsions.
Expels students for assault, possession or use of drugs or alcohol, or possession of a weapon. "Pflugerville ISD does not tolerate a student's committing behaviors on this list, and students are most often expelled," wrote Assistant Superintendent Cherryl Porter in an April 28 letter explaining the district's policies. "However, a student's age and the degree to which the offense has been committed are kept in mind when a hearing committee meets."
Round Rock ISD
For a first offense of possessing alcohol or other drugs, Round Rock's policy says that administrators may choose from among the following: temporarily remove the student, set up a conference with the student's parents, call the police, recommend expulsion, refer the student to counseling, or ban him or her from participating in extracurricular activities.