Support And Sanctuary

Rachel Stone Co-Features Editor We all received the handbook in our homerooms, and we all read the important sections, such as the dress code and the new cell phone rule. Yet many of us missed one important detail, one of the most controversial changes to hit the school in all of my years at Latin. I am referring to the new and improved drug and alcohol policy, renamed Support and Sanctuary. Gone are the days of the three-strike policy; in its place is an integrity-based program built to give us students the opportunity for redemption and aid. According to Upper School Director Mr. Graf, this name is perfect for the new system. Although he stresses the fact that “Latin is not a therapeutic school,” he does hope that the students, (“particularly those who may be in trouble with substances”) can “engage the school in a constructive way so that they can get healthier.” Under these new rules, if you are caught with drugs or alcohol (or under the influence of either), you are still subject to the consequences, such as meeting with the Disciplinary Committee and facing suspension or expulsion. However, if you are under the influence at a school event and turn yourself in to a faculty member, you are exempt from the customary punishment. By invoking this Sanctuary, new rules take over. Based on the severity of your offense, you would be placed into a variety of recovery programs. According to school counselor Ms. Stevens, the possible therapy strategies would “look anywhere from seeing a counselor once or twice a week to a full treatment…(such as going to a 2 to 3 week intensive program) or an outpatient program daily or weekly.” She stresses that the level of treatment “absolutely depends on the student and his or her situation; depending upon if they need detox, or if they can be helped psycho-dynamically,” which, she explains, is “cognitive behavior work and group therapy.” The school “works with programs such as Hazelton, Rosencrantz, and many places, therapists and specialists in the city that work with teens and substance abuse.” Once a student is working with an expert or in a program, “the rules are subject to change based on the treatment protocols and levels of severity,” she explains. “We are going to follow the expert’s guidelines.” Though a student cannot formally invoke Sanctuary more than once, the expert’s rules outweigh the original policy. In general, both faculty and students seem to be feeling positive about the new changes to the program; Mr. Graf believes that this will “give [students] a chance to engage the school in a constructive way to get real help, and an opportunity to really partner with the school.” In his opinion, Support and Sanctuary is truly beneficial for students who have made a small transgression, and want to come clean and receive help. Although he respects that “there are some kids who are addicts,” he believes “the number of students who may have genuine physiological issues with substances is pretty small.” He “would much rather have students say ‘I made a terrible mistake this weekend,’ because the school wants to care for you.” In contrast, Ms. Stevens “[does] not think that Support and Sanctuary advocates someone who has made a one night mistake (aside from the fact that he or she is…able to ask for help).” She continues to say “if it’s just a one night mistake, I definitely don’t think this is the program for them. It is definitely a program for students with substance abuse.” This minor discrepancy reflects many of the students’ concern with the program; though it is simply created to assist and advocate, Support and Sanctuary has become somewhat convoluted in its aims for the student body. Personally, I do believe that both intentions are in our best interest. However, us students need a little more clarity for whom exactly the program is trying to help. Additionally, Support and Sanctuary is largely based on integrity, for better and for worse. It rewards those of us who initiate the program out of honesty and self-preservation, and allows those students to get a legitimate second chance (without a permanent mark on their record, or disciplinary action). Mr. Graf remarked that the disciplinary and therapeutic actions themselves vary according to the claims of the students… “Assuming the student has been honest with us…If we and Ms. Stevens think we trust the student, then mandated counseling would probably be lighter.” But, as Mr. Graf stated, “Latin is not an investigative school…[yet] we will ask more questions if we believe a student to be lying.” In the end, it is up to us students. We all have the choice of how we chose to live our lives, and now so more than ever. Only time will tell how we make those choices, yet now we know that we have the school on our sides.]]>