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Student conduct and discipline draws discussion from MPS Board of Education

Chad Schroeder speaks about his thoughts of the student conduct and discipline guidelines presented at the BOE meeting on July 10. (Photos by Jacob Sturm)

By Jacob Sturm

Oklahoma’s public schools are facing a precarious situation that doesn’t seem to be going away
any time soon, and Mustang Public Schools is making some changes to address the challenge.

Mustang Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, Ryan McKinney, said
the district has spent time looking at the drug and alcohol section of the policy, and mentioned
seeing some trends the district is seeing.That objective was to examine the suspension rate resulting from the drugs and alcohol trends.

He said the current policy shows that a different consequence is in place for each age group
(High School, Middle School, Intermediate) and the type of offense (first offense, option for
possession or use, option for sharing or transfer, second offense, and distribution for gain).

McKinney’s presentation showed a massive jump in drug and alcohol suspensions in the school
district over the past five years, while the district is concerned about the kids who choose to
not take the option (which would get them back into school in a shorter period of time barring
they continuously test negative in drug tests each month).

“So, what we are proposing is some changes on the drug and alcohol policy,” McKinney said.
“Once again safety is number one, but we are trying to figure out how do we meet the needs of
these students… to get them ready for the next steps.”

Those proposed changes include doing away with the language of sharing and transferring and
instead moving the category into the distribution section of the policy.

The policy changes would increase the number of days suspended for intermediate students
(30 days changed to 45 days) for first and second offenses, while Middle School and High School
students getting a reduction for those same offenses (original 60 days changed to 45 days for
Middle School, original 90 days changed to 45 days for High School).

The 45 days number is equivalent to roughly a quarter of a semester, giving the students ample
opportunity to be in school and catch up on their work even if they serve a suspension for the
drug and alcohol issues.

A controversial part of the proposal was removing the voluntary urinalysis as a condition of
reinstatement. Toby Thompson, who is the board seat 3 representative, asked why the
urinalysis test would be removed.

He opposed the proposed change, saying the workforce jobs students may be prepared for at
Mustang Public Schools wouldn’t ask when the drugs were taken if a test is positive.

Dr. Kathy Knowles then addressed the board regarding the conversation.

“I can just speak of what we live every day,” Knowles said. “…This battle has almost become
insurmountable for us because of the laws in our state. So, when kids have it that easily
accessible, we have to decide what do we need to do as an institution. We need to educate
kids, and so what we want is kids back in school. If they’re not high in our building, and they’re
not bringing drugs into our building, we believe that we need our kids in school so that we can
teach them.”

She said she has seen more kids drop out of high school in the past year, and told the board
that she believes it is due to the drug issue.

Dr. Robert Rader, Seat 2 on the BOE, asked what other substances besides marijuana are being
identified as issues, and that prompted a discussion about differentiating marijuana from other

“I personally don’t love the idea of dropping the urinalysis, but for all the reasons stated, I don’t
think you can make it work,” Rader said. “The 45 days, I do think we have to be careful sending
a message that we’re lowering the penalty because we think marijuana is ok because I
personally don’t think it’s ok, especially for kids this age.”

Rader also pushed for mandatory counseling regardless of the option reducing the suspension
for students being taken. An attorney was said to be necessary to add that suggestion to the
policy, with language allowing for an opt out due for those who so choose.

Chad Schroeder, who serves as the representative for seat 4 on the board, offered his thoughts
to the board as part of the discussion.

“To me, it almost seems like we’re swaying too far as far as reducing consequences and
accountability,” Schroeder said. “I’d almost lean the other way kind of like it has been.”

Knowles suggested requiring drug testing without it being tied to revocation. That, along with
requiring counseling for all drug and alcohol suspensions unless it is opted out of, were added
to the policy and approved by the board.

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