ZERO… tolerance policy

The drug/alchol policy for the SMSD needs to be reconsidered so each school district in Kansas has a coherent system.

Nick Feighner
Nick Feighner

Remember that annoying orange packet you received at the beginning of the school year?  You know, the one you and your parents probably set down and signed without even reading?  This little packet explains the drug/alcohol policy that is enforced by the SMSD.  What this packet doesn’t mention is that the Blue Valley and Olathe Districts (districts that we compete against), do not follow the same guidelines.

SMSD: first offense—suspended for remainder of the season; second offense—suspended for 365 days.

Olathe and Blue Valley: first offense—suspended for 50 percent of the season; second offense—suspended for full season; third offense—suspended for 365 days. The Olathe and Blue Valley districts essentially offer their athletes a second chance.

My first question is why hasn’t this difference been brought up by someone on our school board?  Does it have to be brought to their attention by an 18-year-old student?  The difference in these policies is not fair to Shawnee Mission athletes. Olathe and Blue Valley schools don’t abide by the same rules when they compete against SM schools throughout the season.

In application, let’s say star athletes from Olathe East, Blue Valley, and SM Northwest are all at the same party where there is drinking going on.  The cops show up, hand out MIPs, and send reports back to each of the schools with the names of the students at the party.  Will the Olathe East athlete be playing by the time state rolls around? Yes.  How about the Blue Valley kid? Yep.  And the Northwest kid? No!  Ever since the zero tolerance policy was put into effect by SMSD, there are no second chances for athletes in our school district.  Is anyone else besides me thinking, “Hmm… shouldn’t students in the same county, league, and state have the same policies and rules to follow?”

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the current policy is the rule stating that student-athletes can be suspended from their sport for being at a party, even if they are not participating in drinking or the use of drugs or tobacoo.  What if these “responsible student-athletes” are the ones providing the rides home? This reduces the number of teens who will drink and drive.  If they have no alcohol in their system, how can they be in trouble? I honestly don’t understand this rule..  Now, the coaches and administrators reading this are probably thinking: “Why would an athlete even put himself in this situation or be hanging out with these kids?”  My answer for you is that, in reality, alcohol and drugs are everywhere.  It’s even at parties that strictly say: NO ALCOHOL/DRUGS ALLOWED.  How do we stop the idiot who thinks rules don’t apply to him and secretly brings it in anyway?  It’s at small get-togethers with friends. Heck, someone in your classroom right now might have a “water bottle” in his or her backpack enjoying their buzz while reading Huck Finn.

I don’t think some people realize what some of these athletes’ lives become after being kicked off from their athletic teams.  There are a handful who get kicked off for very minor incidents, and their entire life spirals downward as a result of the suspension by the school administration.  Some teens literally live to play sports.  Sports are what make them come to school everyday and strive to succeed.  If we don’t give them a second chance, what will happen to them?  Will they become the ones who dropout and work at McDonalds the rest of their lives?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that student-athletes should think it’s OK to drink or smoke.  The law is the law, and if someone wants to break it, there should be consequences.  Consider this:  What if the school boards came together and created a policy that applied to everyone in the state of Kansas?  Can’t we make it so the first offense is a slap on the wrist warning the teen that they have crossed a line that shouldn’t be played with.  After the first offense, require them to take drug and alcohol classes and do community service? In my opinion, the zero tolerance policy is, quite frankly, too harsh. I just want everyone to follow the same guidelines.  If the rules aren’t revised, SMSD athletes will continue to suffer from the irregular playing field.