WESTFORD — The Westford Academy student handbook is undergoing a number of changes, including changing how some tobacco violations are handled.
Currently, students who are charged with a tobacco infraction are issued a $100 fine and an in-school suspension. The change aims to replace the suspension with an educational program.
The Drug Education Curriculum: Intervention, Diversion and Empowerment program, or iDECIDE, provides drug prevention education to students. The program was created by Dr. Randi Schuster, the director of neuropsychology in the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“[She] has been involved with Westford Academy for quite some time,” said Westford Academy’s Dean of Students Dan Twomey in a May 23 School Committee meeting. “Her program is now partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to provide an alternative to suspensions for substance abuse.”
The program would be administered by faculty and administration to provide an alternative response for students with nicotine infractions. For its pilot year, Westford Academy will primarily focus on nicotine and vape use.
“The program is designed for all substances,” he said. “But in the first year, we decided for us, over all of the substances we’ve had over the past [five] years, vaping is the number one substance.”
The program would replace an approximately six hour in-school suspension with the iDECIDE program, which would be administered in three to four after-school sessions.
“It would be after school, so you would still be attending all of your classes,” he said. “It would be equivalent to a full day of in-school suspension, but it would be after school.”
In a phone call with WestfordCAT, Twomey clarified that students cannot opt out of the program.
“There’s no choice at this point,” he said. “The first time they have to do it.”
He clarified that the program only applies to the first infraction. Additional infractions will still result in in-school suspension.
“If there’s still a second offense there will continue to be a suspension,” he said. “We’re going to continue and examine that as we launch this program.”
Students will continue to be fined $100 for their first tobacco infraction, $200 for their second infraction and $300 for each subsequent violation.
Training for the new program is slated for September. Twomey noted that DPH will provide stipends to faculty and administration to cover the cost of the two-day training program.
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