Students observe mock expulsion

Jessica Baker (center) reacts to part of the current drug policy as pointed out by friend Caitlin Goins as Shannon Jancula (right) looks on Tuesday afternoon. Ashland Daily Tidings/DENISE BARATTA

By Mark Norby
Ashland Daily Tidings
It was curious theater for the Ashland High School students who gathered to witness a mock expulsion of one of their classmates by the school’s dean.

“I thought it seemed really staged and devoid of any emotion,” said AHS junior Ben Carrier after Tuesday’s event. “I don’t think there was a natural flow between (Pete) Cislo (AHS Dean of Students) and the students in the audience.”

Carrier is the newest student member of the Drug and Alcohol Policy Committee created by the Ashland School District to handle student infractions concerning suspected substance consumption and abuse on the school’s campus or on official school time.

The mock expulsion brought together nearly 150 AHS students selected by their peers from the school’s guide classes that prepare students for college and for their futures.

“You’ve all been brought here through your guide classes,” said Matt McKinnon, AHS history teacher and moderator of the event. “We’re going to ask two of you to volunteer for a mock expulsion in order for us to show you how the drug and alcohol policy might work if you’re suspected of having consumed drugs or alcohol on campus.”

The dean then chose two student volunteers to portray the fictitious violators of the policy.

Ninth-grade student Rachel Sohl portrayed the student who allegedly had been drinking on campus. Tenth-grader Ailee Slater played her friend who apparently had not been drinking, but was trying to help her friend to stop when they were caught by administrators and brought to the dean’s office.

“It wasn’t a real experience,” Carrier said.

In real life students could face the possibility of expulsion after a hearing by a school-appointed hearings officer. A student’s parents are given the option to waive their child’s right to the hearing – according to the proposed policy – whereby leaving the expulsion decision exclusively in the hands of school officials. The policy would expel a student for one year.

“What’s the benefit of expulsion for drug or alcohol use?” asked AHS senior Lilia Lassiter.

“My job is to prepare you for real life,” Cislo said. “The consequences you’ll face later in life will be much more serious than anything you’ll experience here.”

AHS senior Brady Brim-DeForest, who serves on the policy committee with Carrier, remarked “I think bringing all the students together was a great idea and everybody really seemed to like the opportunity to discuss the policy. But there wasn’t enough time to really go through how the policy works and to hear all the students’ opinions.”

Brim-DeForest expressed that he would like his role on the committee to be used as a conduit between students, the teachers and administrators. “But I’m really concerned with how a student proves his or her innocence,” he said.

At the end of the mock expulsion Sohl faced being expelled for one year and directed to one of two drug and alcohol treatment programs offered through AHS. She thought the process wasn’t fair.

“I was supposedly drinking and the dean said he could smell alcohol on my breath, but where’s the proof?” Sohl said.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction though,” Carrier said. “We should have another meeting where students have a better chance to express themselves.”

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