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Proposed Chemical Health Policy Changes Defeated

The Westborough School Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday night.

The Westborough School Committee voted 3-2 against its subcommittee’s proposed clarifications to its chemical health policy on Wednesday night.

In addition, Vice Chairman Stephen Doret presented his proposed draft that, he said, “protects and utilizes the good elements of our chemical health policy” and “defines the responsibilities and duties of the school committee and the administration” relative to state law. Doret said he patterned his text after those used at such schools as Boston University and Harvard University.

School committee members said they had just received Doret’s draft. The board plans to discuss it on June 5, and possibly vote that night as well.

The vote Wednesday night came nearly one month after a number of parents raised concerns about the proposal.

At that time, parent Michael Donovan said the term "knowingly in the presence of" penalized --by "guilt by association" -- students who attend such functions but do not use drugs or alcohol.

Shortly thereafter, former school committee members wrote to the board and asked it to remove the “knowingly in the presence of” clause, which was approved during their tenure.

“We are of the opinion that the anticipated public policy benefit relative to the behavior of Westborough students over the years has not materialized,” the letter stated.

"Consequently, the policy unfairly penalizes good behaving students who serve as positive role models relative to those students who wrongly consume alcohol or drugs.”

Members Bruce Tretter and Jody Hensley cast the two minority votes Wednesday night.

Tretter said the board had asked for more information but had not received it. That included hearing a presentation from Westborough High School Physical Education Team Chairman Roger Anderson on the MetroWest Adolescent Chemical Health survey, “which is a component of why we’re putting this policy together,” Tretter said.

“It is incumbent upon us to make a decision based on all the available facts before making a decision,” which is school committee policy BCA, he said.

Hensley said that “from the feedback I’m getting from the community, I don’t feel the community understands the policy that is before the committee.”

“I think we’re really in a hostile, confused place on this,” she said.

Doret said the former school committee members’ letter influenced his opinion.

He also suggested that a subcommittee, including administrators, create a report to the superintendent, superintendent give recommendation to school committee.

Tretter said School Superintendent Marianne O’Connor had not offered her thoughts on the policy subcommittee’s proposal.

“We have not heard from the administration about this policy, and that’s unprecedented,” Tretter said.

Member Nicole Sullivan said her thoughts were on “adopting the MIAA policy, but keeping our more stringent standards.”

“I think that holds our kids to a higher level,” she said.

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