Most schools pay lip service to no drinking, no smoking, and
no illegal drugs.
But the Parkaway School District here is going a step
further. All high school students who play football, cheerlead, or
participate in any other extracurricular activity must sign an
Any student violating the pledge - on campus or off - will be
barred from team competition. Superintendent Jere Hochman calls the
new policy a "prevention and education program."
As the public calls for tighter discipline, the Parkaway
district's tougher conduct code exemplifies a controversial and
growing trend to expand the boundaries of school authority.
Some states are passing legislation requiring or encouraging
districts to have explicit codes of conduct. And many school
districts are establishing policies requiring suspension or
expulsion when a student is arrested, even for activities unrelated
But the policies are raising questions about how far school
officials can go in policing student conduct. Can a student be
sanctioned for swearing at a teacher at the mall? Is a fight
between students at a video-game parlor grounds for expulsion?
In Connecticut last month, a state judge struck a blow to
local educators' efforts to police off-campus conduct. A 1995 law
allowing schools to expel students for off-campus behavior that is
"seriously disruptive to the educational process" was found to be
Balking in White Plains, N.Y.
Meanwhile, some students are voicing their own protest. Last
fall, Elana Nightingale, a high schooler in White Plains, N.Y.,
refused to sign her school's code of conduct under which students
who use or possess tobacco, alcohol, or drugs are automatically
barred from sports or other extracurricular activities. Elana took
her complaint to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union and won some modifications to the school's code.
Many schools have longstanding policies barring athletes from
using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. But now those codes of conduct
are being extended to students who participate in any kind of
extracurricular activity, whether it be the chess team, debate
club, or student council. Elana, for example, was a photo editor on
the White Plains High School newspaper.
School administrators find themselves stuck in the middle.
"They are trying to give parents what they're asking for: a safe,
orderly environment," says Kathy Christie, a policy analyst at the
Education Commission of the States. …