AUGUSTA — The Augusta Board of Education on Wednesday will consider drug, alcohol and tobacco policies that some have criticized because provisions call for suspension and expulsion in some cases.

Up for a final vote is a policy called Drug, Tobacco Products and Alcohol Use by Students, which states that school principals may suspend and/or recommend expulsion of students who violate the policy.

Parents, substance abuse experts and some school board members have previously criticized the proposal, saying students caught with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs should be counseled and disciplined, but that discipline should take place in school. They said suspending students with substance abuse problems could make their problems worse, not better.

Laura Hamilton, an at-large board member, said during a discussion of the issue last month that research on students with substance abuse issues indicates that they should be kept in school and receive counseling. She also suggested requiring them to do community service at the Alfond Center for Cancer Care.

School administrators say suspension is not the first – nor even a commonly used – option when students are caught violating substance abuse rules on school grounds. But it is a tool they need in case students don’t comply with the rules and other discipline is not effective, they said. They also noted the policy states students “may” be suspended for violations, not that they “shall” be suspended, giving administrators leeway in handling individual problems.

Stewart Brittner, an assistant principal at Cony, said under both the new and old policy, students violating tobacco rules would first be offered participation in a two-day alternative to suspension program and, if the student declined to take part, could be suspended for between one and three days. He said it generally is not necessary to suspend a student. But he said administrators need that option, or some students may not take the consequences seriously.

Superintendent James Anastasio could not be reached for comment Monday.

Board members are also scheduled to hold first readings – two readings are required for passage – on two other similar policies: one on tobacco use and possession and one on tobacco use and possession administrative procedure.

Board members meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kedwardskj