Schools look to revamp ‘zero tolerance’ policy

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Education > LAPS enlists help of police, other entities

By Tris DeRoma

School administration officials recently announced at a school board work session that they are going to be making some major changes to their “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies.
“We have three policies we are going to be addressing alcohol and drug use, student conduct and discipline, and threatening,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Gerry Washburn. “We are going to be addressing all three of these policies at the same time, since they are all related, one way or another to the mental health issues we are dealing with, with our students.”
Washburn further said LAPS is going to concentrate on two areas in the policies — rehabilitation and counseling, as well as criminal activity.
“Our policies, as written, are written from a perspective of zero tolerance. There really is no differentiation made between a student making an error and a student engaging in criminal intent,” Washburn said, adding that the policies are pretty rigid and do not give law enforcement nor school officials leeway in deciding a student’s fate.
However, the rewrite will not occur in a vacuum, as the district has invited judges from the magistrate and municipal court, the chief of the Los Alamos Police Department, members of the Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, and others to help craft the rewrite.
Meetings are due to begin mid-April.
The input committee will also have members who Washburn said were “on the receiving end” of those policies, and are now older, what the experience was like. The process is also going to include school-wide student surveys sent out by the Los Alamos Youth Activities Center to get their input on what they think the policies should look like, as well.
Washburn said the information gathering process should be completed by the end of June, so the board can work on honing the policies before the next school year begins.
School board members seemed to be all for the changes.
“I like the idea of adding students to the process,” said school board member Bill Hargraves. “I think they can add a lot of insight.”
Board President Jim Hall said the policies, as they stand now, are like “mandatory sentencing that take all of the flexibility away from the staff and doesn’t always result in necessarily the right thing for the students.”