Administrative decision on prom drinking causes concerns

If JC seeks to change the “social landscape” plagued by underage drinking, then the administration must crack down on alcohol violations and change the attitude students have toward drinking.

The administration allowed several students to return to school following a brief suspension for allegedly drinking at prom — an administrative decision that has created even more problems for the school community.

First, rumors about the administration’s decision spread beyond the confines of the JC campus, creating an image of a school afflicted with lax disciplinary policy. Next, the administration failed to address the student body on the issue, choosing to ignore the rumors instead of tackling the widespread issue head-on.

Additionally, many students, especially seniors, feel that a small group of seniors is tarnishing the school’s reputation and that the administration isn’t doing enough to protect the school’s reputation in the community.

In the future, however, the administration needs to make several changes in order to separate the students who “fly straight,” as principal Paul Barker said, from the students who bring down the school. The administration must adjust the school’s outlook on drinking, rework the handbook’s disciplinary section, and address the situation with the entire student body.

Ultimately, the administration needs to adjust its position regarding teen drinking. They currently appear to have this hopeless idea that drinking is “part of the social landscape,” As Barker suggested.

“…The data [regarding alcohol usage among JC students] suggests that we’re not talking about something so exceptional,” according to Barker.

The fact that students are drinking is not a secret. It’s not as widespread of a problem as some students and even members of the local community make it out to be, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed if it is happening at all.

Barker said that he has not expelled a student for alcohol in the 10 years that he has been principal at JC. “It’s just sort of a demarcation point. Every time there have been drugs, always dismissed. Alcohol, never,” Barker said.

Reversing the trend can start with cracking down on alcohol violations. In the prom incident, small details like the lack of chaperones on buses and unclear handbook language might have stopped the school from punishing the drinkers more severely. However, for all future incidents, the administration should strive to enforce the alcohol policy in the way that they have attacked more frivolous issues like uniform violations.

At the beginning of the second semester, the administration and faculty suddenly began passing out detentions left and right for minor uniform infractions, practically scaring the student body into dressing properly. The administration thought we looked sloppy, so they handed out detentions to solve the issue.

If giving detentions for uniform infractions worked—at least for a short time—why not try cracking down on more serious issues, like drinking? By expelling just one student—or maybe a group of students—for coming to a school function drunk, the school could send a clear message to the students and the community that JC has no tolerance for such behavior.

In order to crack down, the first thing the administration must do is rework the handbook language because the current edition of the handbook is unclear about exact procedures for dealing with alcohol and drug violations. Barker acknowledged Calvert Hall College High School’s handbook, which “singles out the prom as an event with a specific consequence.”

For now, addressing the prom incident with the senior class or even the entire student body, as Barker suggested in an interview, could be enough to satisfy most students and faculty in disagreement with the school’s recent disciplinary decision. The administration should explain the school’s position on student drinking and express plans for future disciplinary action against alcohol violation if they seek to resolve the small but exposed drinking issue at JC.