Delaware News

Group seeks to fill 'holes' in district's drug policies

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Schools are responsible for educating children, but they often are in the position of doing much more than that.

The Delaware City School District is among four school districts participating in the Drug-Free Delaware Project, funded by Drug-Free Delaware. The project aims to provide an analysis of the district's substance-abuse prevention efforts and make recommendations for improvement.

Drug-Free Delaware leaders hope through these analyses of Delaware County schools, they will be able to decrease the amount of substance abuse among youth.

"We were hoping to get a good picture of the county's prevention practices and see what holes need to be filled," said Julie Krupp, project director at Drug-Free Delaware.

The analysis was conducted by Epiphany Community Services, which spent time talking to parents, teachers, staff and students and came up with a report, presented Oct. 1 to the Delaware school board.

Deacon Dzierzawski, president of Epiphany Community Services, said the district as a whole has been proactive in this area.

"From our experience, they are able and willing to look at themselves and say, 'We can do better,' " he said.

Dzierzawski said the district's primary job is to educate, but that doesn't mean it won't end up dealing with behavioral issues, bullying, parental issues and more.

"Schools today are charged with more than just education; they need to provide resources and expand their policies to raise the bar of expectation for their students," he said.

Changes suggested by the organization include mandated drug-testing for students before they can be involved in extracurricular activities, and updates to the student code of conduct.

Dzierzawski said making changes to the student code of conduct will ensure students know they are not only representing themselves, but the school and the district.

Students need to understand there is an expectation of behavior, he said -- not only do students need to be held responsible, but all staff members need to be held responsible as well.

"Every staff member, from the bus driver to the custodian to the superintendent, is responsible to help young people make good decisions," he said.

In its report to the school board, Drug-Free Delaware recommended increased monitoring and documentation of student behavior.

Dzierzawski said he found in his research that the district has strong communication among parents, teachers, staff and students -- but added it can always be improved.

"Across the board, people have the students' best interest at heart and know what is going on with their students, for the most part," he said.

Superintendent Paul Craft said board members are prepared to make the suggested changes and continue to evaluate policies as they go.

"We are willing to change our structure in an effort to reduce the usage of drugs in this district," he said.

Dzierzawski said from an outsider's point of view, the district is a positive one that is open to improvement.

"If I were asked to move and enroll my students in Delaware City Schools, my answer would be 'yes,' " he said.

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