Twenty-eight sophomores were suspended this week for drug and alcohol use during a recent school-sponsored field trip to Oregon.
There is also an ongoing investigation into the incident, said Cindy McCauley, Tam Union District board president.
The event, a part of the ROCK program at Drake, was an annual fieldtrip to a Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon in late-March, said Tam Union District Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel. About 50 sophomore students from the ROCK program – a freshman-sophomore academy with a focus on the arts – made the overnight trip with four chaperones.
After the trip, the school became aware of the use of alcohol and pot brownies by students while in Oregon. The 28 students were suspended for three days from school this week and from all school activities, including sports teams.
“It’s standard policy for any drug or alcohol violation,” said Kimbrel of the three-day suspension.
“It’s really unfortunate and pretty disappointing for us,” said McCauley.
Standard district policy, Kimbrel said, is to have one chaperone for every 10 students. When the board approved the trip – as the district board has to for all overnight or out-of-state trips – the number of chaperones approved met district policy, Kimbrel said.
Kimbrel said she could not further comment on why there were only four chaperones actually in attendance for the 50 students on the trip, because she couldn’t comment on ongoing personnel investigations.
One parent, whose daughter was involved in the incident and received the three-day suspension, said she would still recommend the ROCK program and doesn’t blame the teachers or the program for what happened. In fact, she thought, it was the close-knit atmosphere of the group that contributed to the incident, calling it “teenage lemming behavior,” because the kids all feel like a family and are inclined to follow each other’s lead.
“These are some of the best kids,” said the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, saying all the students who were suspended do well in school, are involved in community service, and participate in school activities and sports. “It’s not the kids we thought would get in trouble.”
A number of the students are working on community service projects during their three-day suspension.
Kimbrel said there have never been any reports of alcohol or drug use on this trip before, which has been an annual event for nearly 15 years.
But, the administration was not, in fact, aware of this incident at the time it occurred. According to the parent, the students were commended for being model students while in Ashland.
It was only after the students returned and began sharing photos and talking about the incident on social media sites that the school community became aware of the incident. Use of alcohol or drugs at any school event or on campus is a violation of the student code of conduct and requires disciplinary action.
Kimbrel said she didn’t know how the administration became aware of the incident, but the school was obligated to take disciplinary action regardless.
The parent who spoke with Patch said the students are all “dealing with it in their own ways,” and trying to come to grips with the extent of the mistake they made. “They’re all very remorseful and very sorry they did it,” she said.
She also thought it was unfortunate that kids are exposed to so many things in the Marin environment and are so “sophisticated” at such a young age.
“[The trip] would have been an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said.
The district is still investigating the incident and has made no disciplinary decisions beyond the three-day suspension, though Kimbrel said a programming change, such as canceling the trip in future years, is certainly a possibility.
Though similar issues have arisen at Drake in the past and are not uncommon at high schools, the age of the students and the large number involved has made it a notable incident for the school community.
McCauley said she was not aware of any incident in the past where this large a number of students were suspended for drug or alcohol use. Kimbrel also said in her three years at the Tam Union District and in her 15 years as a school administrator in other districts, she’d never seen this large an incident occur.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kimbrel.