To keep aligned with the handbook and dissuade students from drug use and bringing weapons to school, principal Michael O’Rourke sought approval from the school committee to issue 10 days of school suspension for the violation of those rules instead of five. The school committee approved the change, though there was some uncertainty.
“Ten days makes them think twice,” O’Rourke said, noting that it’s not as infrequent that middle school age kids are involved this type of behavior.
“My first impression is that the substance abuse one, that 10 days might be a little harsh,” said school committee member Andrew Mackie. He was concerned that kids would also lose too much learning time. Committee member Tom Golota added that if the suspension is issued a couple of weeks before MCAS, students would lose that preparation time in class.
O’Rourke said that tutoring is available, and for special needs students there is an individualized education program.
School committee member Deniz Savas worried that such a long time away from school would also be a hardship on the parents who would have to stay home to watch their children.
"I'm torn. I get the 10-day impact benefit, but I'm also concerned that we are going to create something that might be a hardship on parents as well."
Norton High School principal Raymond Dewar supported O’Rourke’s request.
“If you are a middle school student, I think you should know better,” Dewar said. “And if you are a middle school student you should also say, ‘Wow, if I have a drug issue now, what is my high school career going to look like?”
Student council members Sara Pisdadian and Kady Ferguson also agreed. “It’s as serious as it is in high school, if not more serious because how young they are, so 10 days is reasonable,” Ferguson said.
principal Riitta Bolton said that a 10-day suspension is common in other middle schools.
“It really is an illegal activity. If the child was older in age, they would probably be facing criminal charges,” she said. “And I think from my perspective, I’ve had to do that with a fifth grader. It’s a wake up call for parents.”