The Mansfield School Committee approved a measure in the Mansfield High School handbook policy that would increase penalties for underage drinking and illegal drug use among MHS’s athletes.
Current MIAA policy in the Chemical Health Rule states that a student found imbibing illicit drugs; controlled substances, steroids or alcohol would be in violation of the rule. Violation of the rule includes penalties such as decreased eligibility and complete nonparticipation in MIAA activities, depending on incident occurance.
The new MHS policy would now include any student who voluntarily stay at a place where steroids marijuana and alcohol is being illegally consumed, bought, sold or given away evidenced by a police report.
“What we’re looking to do is to stop our students from going to illegal underage drinking parties, period,” said assistant MHS principal Dawn Stockwell. “We feel as though it is a dangerous situation and we do not want our students partaking in these events. This does not include backyard barbeques with family, this is strictly talking about illegal underage parties.”
Stockwell said that this is called constructive possession.
MHS principal Michael Connolly said this issue comes into play when police break up a party outside of school and there is too high an amount of substances to incur guilt on just one individual.
Chair Michael Trowbridge said he had a problem with the policy, saying that these types of parties often have invitees who may not be aware of the situation and are caught by police before they have a chance to leave.
“This is not MIAA policy,” Trowbridge said. “The way the MIAA regulations read say that guilt shall not be by association… I like the idea of what you’re trying to do, but how do you know what someone is really thinking?”
Stockwell said that students charged with constructive possession only have ramifications under athletic events, and that it can be troublesome to “ferret out” such a situation. Connolly said that, while there are tips given to the administration concerning illicit activities of students, no action is taken on an anonymous tip or photos. The policy, which was amended later in the meeting to state this, would only take action if evidence could be corroborated by a police report.
“A lot of times when these parties are broken up there were under surveillance,” Connolly said. “We had a couple of cases where the police were there and they said we saw so and so just arrive, it’s mentioned in the report, and that student was removed from the investigation.”
Stockwell added that, though it is possible, it is not a likely scenario.
“From my experience now, from working in this town for four years, students know the nature of these parties when they go there by and large,” Stockwell said. “If a student very innocently shows up to an event, sees what’s going on, turns around to walk out the door and the police happen to be there… that would be up to the principal’s discretion to determine if the student was in possession.”
Stockwell added that the MIAA rule is the minimum the organization requires to break the chemical rule, and that this policy change is in the spirit of the regulation. Connolly said that many other schools; including the King Philip Regional High School simply enacts the rule without any chance of appeal in similar situations.