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Review of athletic conduct code begins in 9-R

Parents, doctors, students weigh in

Is the Durango High School Athletic/Activity Code of Conduct too strict? Too lenient? Unclear? Should it be more explicit on disciplinary and educational directives? Does it represent current thinking on student codes?

Those are among the questions administrators, parents, coaches, students and the community have been asking in the wake of the recent Durango High School boys cross country and boys junior varsity soccer team incidents with marijuana and alcohol on team trips.

“I’ve had lots of emails and conversations with parents about what the code says and how it’s applied,” Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said, “as we experienced last week with a situation regarding student discipline that became public. Our administrators deal with infractions of the code on a daily basis, not to be punitive but as an opportunity to change young people.”

The 9-R Board of Education discussed the code at its work session Tuesday night and decided to form a code-of-conduct review committee to answer questions raised. A small subcommittee will come up with directives to the review committee to be issued next week with the agenda, and then the entire board will discuss the parameters of the review and who should be on the committee at the regular meeting on Oct. 27.

DHS Principal Leanne Garcia and Assistant Principal and Activities Director Dave Preszler both spoke to the board Tuesday. Students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities are subject to two codes, Garcia said, both the school and the activity codes.

“We believe it’s a privilege to participate in activities as a representative of DHS,” Garcia said. “So our expectations are higher, more stringent than what we might see in a school setting. We try to balance the education potential and make sure there are consequences. Our kids need structure.”

Alcohol and drug use, in particular, are a topic of frequent conversation among coaches and advisers, Preszler said.

“I’ve got coaches champing at the bit to wrestle with this issue,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at how to build character in our kids.”

Kenna Willis, the ex-officio student representative to the board, recommended the code of conduct be expanded to apply to middle school activities because sixth- to eighth-graders are also exposed to illegal substances.

Work sessions don’t usually allow public participation, but the board voted to change the protocol for the evening. About 10 people had come because the code was on the agenda.

Cross country team members have held several meetings, runner Becca Schaldach said, and are working on creating their own code of conduct more stringent than the school’s.

“I’m a good student, and I just kind of read the code and signed it,” she said. “I think other athletes will take it more seriously if it’s not just a piece of paper an administrator gives us but one we create.”

The students are also discussing mandatory drug tests, said Tim White, a civil-liberties lawyer. The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that random and/or mandatory drug testing of students involved in extracurricular activities is legal, he said. White, the father of a cross country team member, has volunteered to research the matter further and draft a policy.

Two pediatricians, Dr. Cecile Fraley and Dr. Heidi McMillan, both of Pediatric Partners of the Southwest, spoke about the need for more education on the harm drugs and alcohol cause to developing brains.

“I appreciate the work that went on last week, and that this arose to public levels,” Fraley said. “It’s been prevalent; this has just brought it into the light.”


DHS Activities Code of Conduct (PDF)

For more information

Visit www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Opposes-In-school-Drug-Testing-Due-to-Lack-of-Evidence.aspx for more information on the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on school drug testing.

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