Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Stafford changes alcohol policy

Stafford County students will face less stiff penalties for alcohol use on campus next year. But school officials are quick to point out that this doesn’t mean they’ll be condoning drinking in school.

“We’re not going to be allowing students to drink, I think that’s the public’s misapprehension,” said Daryl Nelson, director of legal services for Stafford schools.

The current policy mandates a minimum suspension for the rest of the school year if a student is caught with alcohol on campus. The change now allows principals the flexibility of instead giving a 10-day suspension for a first-time offense with mitigating circumstances.

The board initially voted against the change, but later this evening they opened the issue back up for discussion and approved the changes, after Nelson assured them that school officials will still report alcohol violations to the Sheriff’s Office. Also, he told them that of 11 students who were suspended for alcohol violations, seven ended up with 10-day suspensions instead of long-term suspensions. So the minimum punishment is already being handed out. The only difference is that under the current policy, a student must appeal to the School Board to get the 10-day suspension.

The new policy, Nelson said, will help students avoid the pain of coming before the School Board.

He also said that he would interview every student caught with an alcohol violation, just as he does now.

The second vote came at 10:30 p.m., just as I finished writing a story for tomorrow’s paper about how the new policy had been shut down. Barring any special meetings, tonight was my last board meeting before going on maternity leave, so I guess the board wanted to make sure I didn’t forget them during my absence…