Returning Lawrence High School students are voicing mixed opinions on newly created anti-drug and alcohol "contracts," which students participating in extracurricular school activities will be required to sign for the first time this fall.
"Maybe it will set an example for students," said Jennifer Trapp, 16, who will be a junior this fall at LHS.
The contracts outline specific penalties if students are found using drugs or alcohol. The contract concept was developed by a 20-member committee of LHS staff during a retreat in April, and specific penalties for violations of the contract were developed later.
THE CONTRACTS will apply to as many as 50 percent of all LHS students, said Ted Juneau, assistant principal for student management.
Extracurricular activities requiring the contracts include athletics, bands, school-sponsored clubs and performance activities such as drama and choir.
Some students said they thought the concept of an anti-drug program was a good idea, but questioned whether a contract system was the best way to deter students from using illegal drugs and alcohol.
"I think it should be understood that you don't do drugs there shouldn't have to be any contracts," said Lori Miller, 17, who will be editor of the Budget, the LHS student newspaper.
Miller said most students normally do not use drugs when they are participating in student activities and that the contracts probably would not change behavior outside of school-sponsored events.
"MOST STUDENTS don't use drugs when they're around school anyway," she said. "I don't think the contracts are going to change what people do when they aren't near school."
David Melton, 16, who will be a junior this fall, also said the behavior of some students won't change, with or without contracts.
"Some of them are going to do what they want to do regardless," he said. "A contract isn't going to matter for some people."
However, Sarah Ramsay, 17, said the contracts might be a good incentive, enabling students to set an example for each other even if they are away from school.
"It (contract) makes it easier to have peer pressure for the better," she said.
Juneau said that even though the contracts would apply only to students involved in extracurricular activities, he said other students could be affected.
"WE WANT to target those kids who are leaders," Juneau said. "What we're trying to do is change the culture in the school. Right now, it's seems to be OK to drink . . . but we're trying to make it to where that's not the `in' thing to do any more."
Juneau said that 70 percent to 80 percent of high school students will use alcohol sometime during the year.
"I don't think anybody will disagree that we have to change that."
However, Miller said that by failing to reach students who are not involved in extracurricular acitivities, the contract program would have little impact on many students who are not "leaders."
Under the contracts, which were mailed to parents in a newsletter this summer, a student will be referred to school administrators for a first-time offense, and the offending student's parents will be notified. The student also will be suspended from one week of extracurricular activities and from at least one extracurricular event.
FOR A SECOND violation, a student will be referred to school administrators, and the parents will be called in for a conference. The student also will be suspended from three weeks of extracurricular activities and from at least three events. The student also will have to be assessed by a drug and alcohol agency and adhere to the program it recommends.
For a third violation, the student will be suspended from all extracurricular activities and reinstated only after the student has completed the program of a drug and alcohol agency.
The student will be responsible for any costs related to a drug and alcohol program.
While the contracts are not part of a federal policy requiring schools to provide drug education for all students, the district developed the contracts in response to that policy, Juneau said.
"I think it speaks to the fact that we have to provide some kind of drug education program," he said.