Community / Opinion

Dana Hall implements non-punitive drug and alcohol response

Dana Hall has begun a non-punitive drug and alcohol response, which allows students to reach out to Dana if they or their friends are facing drug, alcohol, or tobacco problems. This response is another excellent way that Dana can support its students, and I hope that Dana will fully live up to its promise to the students. It is imperative that Dana either publicly announces this response to students or has it discussed in Forum classes.

While the zero tolerance policy toward drug and alcohol use continues, the non-punitive response is intended for “students to seek help for themselves or for a fellow student without the threat of a disciplinary response when they have concerns about alcohol, tobacco or other drug use,” according to the student handbook. While the non-punitive response can be found in the 2015-2016 student and parent handbook, how many of us have fully read the entire student handbook? Let’s be honest: none. The school needs to publicize the response in addition to recording it in the handbook.

C.C Dent ’18 believes the response “is a good addition to the handbook because it is thinking about the safety of the student as well as the misuse of the substance.” Another student (who wishes to remain anonymous) stated that the non-punitive response “sounds like a way better system than a punitive one since you have the ability to ask for help when you know you have a problem.”

The non-punitive response’s purpose is to make students aware that if they or their friends are putting themselves in danger of drugs or alcohol, they can reach out to an adult in the community who will assist in providing help, and neither student will receive a disciplinary response. Punitive means “intended as punishment”; therefore, the name states that it is a policy in which a student, seeking help for herself or for another student, will not receive punishment for the use of drugs or alcohol if she asks for help. Similar to any other policy at Dana, the school has the right to determine whether a student is attempting to manipulate the disciplinary system with the non-punitive response.

The student in need of support should be aware that her parent(s) or guardian(s) will be notified and that a nurse in the Health Center will evaluate her for medical conditions; the school will then determine a plan of support.

My Junior Forum class recently watched a heartbreaking documentary about a boy who graduated from Deerfield and then died of alcohol poisoning in his first month at the University of Colorado. Hours after help that would have saved this boy’s life, a fraternity brother found him lying on his stomach on the house’s floor. This tragedy could happen anywhere, even in the safe community of Wellesley, and high schoolers must start to learn to be upstanders instead of bystanders when their peers become involved with drugs and alcohol to excess. This Forum class would have been the perfect time to discuss the non-punitive response, but it was never brought up. Discussing this response with students is critical, since hardly anyone knows of the policy. How will it do any good without it being publicized?

“We [Dana Hall] are not naive; we know there is a culture [of drinking] in high school, but students should learn to make safe, healthy, and good decisions,” stated Dean of Students Ms. Kristin Ryan. “But the [non-punitive[ response is important to put into place so [students] know that they can receive help.”

While I believe that the non-punitive response is one of the many great ways that Dana supports its students, I can only hope that when students are out of the Dana bubble, they remember the effect that alcohol and drugs can have on one’s body and life, and to never be afraid to make the right decision.

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