GROTON — Parents upset over disciplinary action taken against their children by the administration brought their grievances before the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee in hopes of having the infractions expunged from their children’s records.
The action was spurred by a recent incident in which four high school students were caught with marijuana on school grounds. Subject to disciplinary review, they were subsequently suspended from classes until the end of the current semester.
High School Principal Shelley Marcus Cohen had recommended expulsion for at least one of the students, but the expulsion was later overruled by Superintendent Alan Genovese.
In her defense, Cohen said that when she was first hired as the school’s new principal, she was specifically asked if she would be strict on enforcing the ban on illegal drugs on campus. She vowed that she would be; thus her reason for seeking expulsion.
However, parents of the students affected complained that in disciplining their children, the school administration did not follow its own policies.
One parent read from the district’s policy book at the School Committee meeting on Dec. 3, citing a three-stage procedure that calls for a five-day suspension for first-time offenders, with expulsion only after the third offense.
The parent further claimed that the review of the students’ cases was not done impartially, as required in school disciplinary policies.
Why, she wanted to know, was her son chosen to be expelled on his first offense?
Genovese replied that if any exceptions were made, they were made by the administration to keep the district schools completely drug-free and for student safety.
Still, it was Genovese who had stepped in to review the sole expulsion case and he chose to change it to a simple suspension.
“Every case is carefully reviewed and is slightly different,” Genovese said.
Parents, however, were still concerned that even with disciplinary action reduced to suspensions, there would be black marks on their children’s records.
“Kids make mistakes,” the mother insisted.
Hopes for intervention by the School Committee were in vain. Parents were told by committee Chairman Paul Funch that individual disciplinary matters were out of the hands of the School Committee.
Not mollified by the superintendent’s explanations, the parent insisted that it was the responsibility of the schools to educate their children and not to discipline them or try to change their behavior. That was the responsibility of parents, she said.
Genovese acknowledged that the problem was a behavioral one and one that ought to be a concern to the community outside the schools. But when outside actions threaten the classroom, it becomes the concern of the administration, he said.
Because parents had brought their concerns before the School Committee during the public comment portion of the meeting, the issue could not be discussed at length.
In the end, parents had to be content with a promise by Genovese to review their children’s cases.
According to Cohen, there have been a total of six instances of drug possession at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School this year including the four at issue last week.