In Haddonfield, N.J., near Philadelphia, a town where weekend underage-drinking parties are a rite of passage and a “culture of acceptance” is acknowledged, it’s a novel idea: making students accountable for their behavior, in school or outside of it. Haddonfield School Superintendent Joseph O’Brien’s plan to battle alcohol and drugs has met with considerable resistance in his new, wealthy, high-achieving district, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Detractors say that they don’t want educators sticking their noses in family business, that some students are punished more than others, that they can’t stand punitive policies.
Consequences for using drugs or alcohol range from community service, optional counseling, and a written apology for a first offense to the loss of a month or 10 events’ worth of extracurricular activities, mandatory counseling and group meetings, paid for by the student’s family, for the fifth offense. That’s a powerful tool in a town where an average of 95 percent of students participate in some after-school activity. A growing number of school districts are administering Breathalyzer tests before trips or proms. At tonight’s Haddonfield’s senior prom, students suspected of drinking will be ferried to a hospital and given a blood-alcohol test. Novel in New Jersey, in place in some Pennsylvania districts, the policy is known as “24/7” to emphasize that it is in effect around the clock, and not just during school hours.