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School officials try to curb alcohol, drugs on campuses

Grady County school administrators and Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis are currently reviewing the school system’s drug and alcohol policy and are expected to present revised policies to the board of education next month for its consideration.
“Every time an incident occurs at one of the schools regarding alcohol or controlled substances, there is an issue. The punishment is either too harsh or it is not enough. We just need to come up with a policy we can all hang our hats on and stick with it,” Dr. Pharis said.
The superintendent has asked school principals to share the draft of the revised polices with the individual school councils for their input. Pharis will present the revisions to the board, which will likely place them on the table for 30 days following the Jan. 12 meeting. The following month, the board will vote up or down on the revised policies.
“Once the board agrees to put the changes on the table, the revised policy will be posted on the school system website, and we encourage public input,” Dr. Pharis said.
Superintendent Pharis does not believe there is a “drug problem” in the schools, but notes “any time, even one student brings illegal substances to school, that is a problem.”
Since the start of the current school term, school personnel have dealt with five incidents involving alcohol, two incidents involving marijuana and two incidents of misuse of prescription drugs.
The alcohol and drug infractions occurred at Cairo High School, Washington Middle School, Shiver School and Whigham School.
At Cairo High School, according to Dr. Pharis, during this school term the administration has dealt with one incident involving three students and alcohol, two incidents of misuse of prescription drugs involving five students, and one incident involving marijuana by one student.
Washington Middle School administrators have investigated one incident of alcohol use by one student and one case involving marijuana by a single student.
Dr. Pharis reported that at Shiver, administrators have handled two cases of alcohol violations by two students.
At Whigham there has been one incident involving alcohol and a single student.
The current policy calls for an automatic 10-day suspension and a tribunal shall be held to determine additional punishment. Dr. Pharis prefers to make the tribunal optional, based on the circumstances.
“If we do this, we have to be particularly careful to be consistent with the punishment handed down,” Dr. Pharis said.
He added, “The safety of the teaching and learning environment is our top priority and use of these substances on school grounds or at school-sponsored events is an issue we take very seriously.”
The superintendent solicits the support of the community, parents and guardians to join with school officials and teachers in combating alcohol and misuse of drugs by local teens.
“Parental involvement is the key. To back that up, we must do more to be proactive such as teaching drug/alcohol standards and, on a more regular basis, focus on the issue with the students and community,” Dr. Pharis said.
School administrators are also taking aggressive measures to deter students from bringing alcohol and illegal drugs to school campuses.
On Thursday, the Cairo High School administration, working in cooperation with law enforcement, requested that lawmen and drug-sniffing dogs conduct an unannounced search of the school campus. The dogs are also trained to detect weapons, according to Dr. Pharis.
The Thursday search resulted in no drugs or weapons being found on the school campus.
School officials plan to do more of these unannounced searches at all of the schools on a more routine basis, according to Dr. Pharis.

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