The Oswego School Board is planning to update and revise the code of conduct for athletes and those involved in extracurricular activities. But based on discussions at last week’s board meeting, it’s unclear just what form those revisions will take.
At last Monday’s meeting, board members Mike Scaramuzzi and Laurie Pasteris unveiled the current draft of the code, which covers every student involved in sports, drama or other school-sponsored activities. Scaramuzzi and Pasteris have been involved in discussions over the code for months, and even they disagreed on some of the proposed changes.
The code of conduct specifically forbids students from possessing or using tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs, from being in the presence of illegal drinking or drug use, from being involved with theft or willful property damage, or grossly disobeying the school’s student responsibility code.
The current code only offers one set of penalties for violations: a first offense means the student is suspended from extracurricular activities for half a year, a second leads to suspension for a full year, and a third to suspension for the rest of his or her high school career.
But the proposed changes to the code separate tobacco offenses from drug, alcohol and substance abuse violations, and offer different penalties for each, including one for a fourth offense. Scaramuzzi said he asked himself if he would give the same penalties in his home for tobacco use as he would alcohol or drug use, and “the answer was a resounding no.”
In the new version, a first tobacco offense would lead to a suspension from 10 percent of the activity in question over the year; a second to a 20 percent suspension; a third to a 50 percent suspension; and a fourth to a suspension for the rest of his or her high school career.
A first drug, alcohol or substance abuse violation would mean the student is suspended for 25 percent of the activity over the year; a second to a 50 percent suspension; a third to a one-year suspension, and a fourth to a rest-of-career suspension.
The school district administration would be able to reduce the consequences on a case-by-case basis, if they so choose.
Scaramuzzi and Pasteris said they went back and forth on the numbers, and are open to suggestion. The sticking point, Scaramuzzi said, was the “in the presence of” provision – taking away half an athlete’s season simply for being around other kids drinking or using drugs seemed too harsh, he said.
Pasteris agreed, saying she argued for a 20-percent suspension instead of 25 for a first offense. “I don’t like in the presence of,” she said. “I tell my kids, you can only control yourself.”
The current code prohibits attending parties at which illegal drinking, drug use or steroid use is occurring. The penalty is a one-year suspension from athletics and activities. The proposed new code softens that somewhat – the penalty would be a suspension for “one contest or one week,” whichever is deemed appropriate, and the new code includes a one-time allowance for first offenders who confess.
Board Member Brent Lightfoot called the “in the presence of” provisions “not acceptable.”
Lightfoot said he is in favor of prohibiting tobacco, alcohol and drug use, but believes that a rule banning being in the presence of those things will make students second-guess attending social events, for fear of losing out on part of their seasons or activities. He suggested changing the code to forbid attending parties at which alcohol is provided, not merely present.
Lightfoot said he has talked to students who don’t drink, smoke or use drugs, but are worried about even going over to a friend’s house, in case “one of the idiots there does something stupid, and gets us all in trouble,” he said.
But Scaramuzzi said the penalty was much stricter when he was younger - he faced expulsion for these offenses, he said, and it changed his behavior for the better.
“If we water it down to such an extent, then it’s not a deterrent, and it needs to be a deterrent,” he said. “If you’re hanging around with kids more than once who are doing these things, then it’s a bad decision on who your friends are.”
Board Member Dave Behrens said he doesn’t believe the proposed changes are strict enough. He said if the regulations force kids not to go to parties, that’s a good thing. He said the code would be softened by adding a fourth offense, since students would be able to violate that code multiple times before losing their extracurricular privileges.
“I’m not sure that’s the message we want to send to kids,” he said.
The board took no action on the proposed changes, and talks will continue. A draft of the proposed changes is attached to this article.