By Sarah Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
Flagler College’s zero-tolerance drug policy, which has been in place since the college was first opened in the 60s, has been repealed.
In its place, the school is implementing a new policy where the amount and type of drug will be taken into consideration and disciplinary action will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Under Flagler’s old policy, any use of drugs on campus would have the student brought before Dean of Students Dirk Hibler and that student would be suspended or expelled, depending on the severity.
They could alternatively choose to go before the Student Judiciary Council, which had the same two options. Now students with minor offenses will be offered an educational option that allows them to stay at the school.
Flagler College has sustained its drug policy since the 60s. However, when it came time to review handbook policies it came to light that Flagler’s policy was much stricter than most colleges like it, according to Dr. Daniel Stewart, vice president of student services.
“Here, the zero-tolerance policy, it was always enforced very vehemently,” Stewart said.
Up until this semester, any student caught with any drugs or drug paraphernalia would be suspended or expelled.
Stewart and Hibler are the two administrators on campus who primarily deal with drug offenses. When the policy was brought to their attention, they researched other schools and discussed the proposed change with their colleagues, according to Stewart.
Stewart said that this all started about three years ago when the board of trustees noticed that most other colleges had more lenient policies.
“We were really probably outside the norm, having a zero tolerance,” he said.
He continued that after research and consideration a unanimous vote brought Flagler’s zero tolerance policy to an end.
With this change, the college hopes to be able to help and educate students who misuse drugs instead of punishing them with suspension or expulsion.
“I do think it allows us to, at least the ones that we do catch, do what we do better, which is educate,” he said, “Sometimes the education sinks in and it will be an effective tool and other times the education wont sink in and they’ll go back to doing exactly what they were doing before they got caught.”
The towers of the Ponce De Leon Hotel, which is at the center of Flagler College.
The drug policy was supposed to change starting next fall, however, they have begun implementing it this spring. “Through discussion,” Stewart said. “We said ‘why not just start doing it now?”
Michelle Holland, the director of Residence Life at Flagler College, said that she hopes it will allow students the freedom to speak up if they or someone they know has a problem.
“Individuals might be more willing to come forward if they’re having issues with their roommate that potentially could have drugs in the room, knowing that it’s not zero tolerance anymore,” she said.
Michelle Holland in her office at Student Services.
She said that they will be looking at the changes over the next three years and at the end of that they will have a better idea of how this affects students overall.
She also said she hopes that it will make it easier for Resident Advisor’s to report drug use due to the fact that there are alternatives now to expulsion.
Flagler College faculty hopes that the new policy will allow students a chance to succeed in school and on the job front after they are found with drugs. They hope to use educational methods as opposed to suspension or expulsion.
For students living on campus, this policy is most effective.
Chloe Wheeler is a freshman who lives in the Ponce Residence Hall on campus. She said that she was relieved this policy was in place–that way there was somewhere to go for help if anyone needed it.
“I think if anything, we’re opening more minds on how to be responsible,” Wheeler said.
She continued that she thought it would be more comfortable to reach out to the school with a drug problem knowing that her friend or whoever she was reporting would be treated as an individual and probably not expelled.
Wheeler said that she thinks the policy will be beneficial to students who want to stay in school, but were found with drugs. “Drugs are going to be around no matter where you are,” she said, adding that she thinks the school should allow students to make their own decisions regarding their substance use.
“It’s important not to punish people for things that they already know are wrong. And it’s not OK for someone to not seek help because they’re worried they’re going to get in trouble,” she said.
According to Stewart, the case-by-case drug policy is being implemented this semester but will become official next fall when it is added to the student handbook.