Parents Fight School District’s 24/7 Behavior Policy

Can schools dictate student behavior when classes are not in session? That’s the basis for a court battle between parents and the Haddonfield School District. At issue is the District’s “24/7 Policy” which states underage students caught drinking will be barred from sports and other extra-curricular activities. (1)

The school contends that extracurricular activities are a privilege, not a right, and therefore can be taken away. It also claims students representing the District through sports and other activities can be held to a higher standard. Some parents, on the other hand, argue that the school is overstepping its bounds; monitoring a child’s behavior outside of school is a parental obligation. (2)

Earlier this month, Haddonfield School District won a round when a U.S. District Court refused to oppose the policy. The Court stated there was insufficient proof the policy violated anyone’s rights. As the school pointed out, students do not have to participate in any activities and, if they chose not to, would not be subject to the behavior guidelines. The District now is seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. (1)

The parents involved in the case, however, claim the policy is unfair, particularly to students who have not been convicted, but only charged, with underage drinking. (1)

Haddonfield isn’t the only District struggling with this issue. A similar case occurred in Mountain Lakes where a student was suspended from the girls’ basketball team after attending a party where other underage students allegedly were drinking. The girl’s father fought the school District’s decision. That case was settled out of court. (2)

It’s been reported that about half a dozen school districts in New Jersey have conduct guidelines their students are expected to follow year-round. How serious is the underage drinking problem? A recent study found that the national average age when a person takes a first drink is 14. In New Jersey that age is 12.5 years. (3)

(1) http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=201010050344

(2) http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-10-11-school-discipline_N.htm

(3) http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=201010170314