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District 308 Board Debates Changes to Code of Conduct

The rules that govern athletes and those participating in extracurricular activities may be overhauled, if board members can agree on the changes.

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.

Loreta J. July 10, 2012 at 04:04 PM
The school board is not deciding where they can or cannot be. Your kids are deciding. If their sport means enough to them, and if you've instilled proper values in them, then they should want to stay clear of anything that could jeopardize their standing. I think it's a great life lesson...if you want the good things in life, stay clean, stay away from bad influences, etc...what's wrong with that. It can be a great motivator for kids...stay out of trouble, or you don't play. The school is not prohibiting them from anything...The kids can do whatever they want, but they are aware that they are choosing to accept the consequences all on their own if they participate in something illegal or against the code.
Julie DiCaro July 10, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Huzzah and Hear, Hear.
Herm July 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM
If you as a responsible adult decided to create a program for youth, what is the first thing you would establish? Qualifications and guidelines!! The participation in a "school" activity is not a right, but a priviledge and the difference is that a priviledge comes with conditions. If you want to be part of a select group, you will be expected to conduct yourself at a, perhaps, higher level. Your conduct should be an example to those who desire to become a member of your group. Life seems to be 'what I can get away with without being caught'. This code is attempting to instill in our youth, a higher level of self worth. If you conduct yourself on a certain level, pretty soon you are a more responsible and consistant member of the group and you don't have to think about it, it is part of you. Why do we as parents require our youth to fulfill their assignments sent home in the evening or over the weekend? It is to help them gain what they need to be a better member of society by bettering their knowledge of many things. It all comes down to personal discipline. If you desire to belong to a select group, you will have to follow their requirements for membership. That is the way of the world. Quit trying to get around the steps of the code, but be glad that someone is helping you elevate the sights of your teenager.
Car August 02, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Coming from a student at ohs. If you parents honestly think your kids aren't drinking, then you are in for a rude awakening. I can promise you 5% out of the whole school has never touched alcohol... Other then that, everyone has. So keep putting your 2 cents in because you aren't stopping any kids. Whether the code of conduct is reduced or not, kids still do it. It's called growing up. So I am proud of the board members for helping us out because we are going to do it anyways. No kids are perfect... That's the point of growing up. It should be our parents choice on how we get punished because no one listens to our deans... We look at them as a joke. Just saying.
JimmyJ August 02, 2012 at 02:25 AM
@Car...while I'm about 30 years past my senior year in HS what I can tell you is 30-34 years ago we drank, we partied on weekends, we thought many of our deans were a joke too so what you say is nothing new, even though many parents like to think it is, we seem to have selective amnesia and forgot about it. I guess it comes down to there being a lot more things for you guys today to get mixed up in that are not so good. Look out on RT 31 at the 5 signs for the kids who got wasted and then got into a car with a wasted driver...whatever happened in that car happened with a disastrous outcome. Do people drink and drive, all the time. Do you die the first time? Some do and they don't get a second chance. Some may get it after the third or 30th time. Some manage to survive to old age. You don't know. That's the point, we can't always stop you, but for some of you we can throw enough rocks in your path to slow you down just enough for you to pause and look around. Best advice I can give to your age group is if you're gonna drink or whatever give your folks a call even if it's 4AM and have them pick you up rather than drive yourself or get in the car with someone else who's drunk or high. You bet you'll get hell for it, but you'll be alive and your folks I know would rather be mad as hell than be standing there watching your casket being lowered into a hole in the ground. Don't be in such a rush to grow up, You have hopefully 60 years after high school to be grown up.

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