ELKHART — According to the Indiana Department of Education’s 2011-12 school report, 11 out of 33 Elkhart County elementary schools suspended or expelled students that year for incidents relating to drugs, alcohol, or weapons.
What do these situations look like for a student under 12 years old?
John Hutchings, retiring student services director for Elkhart Community Schools, said that substances Elkhart Community elementary students brought to school included marijuana buds and wine.
“They do realize they have something inappropriate,” said Hutchings. “In one case the student said they had found it on the way to school.”
He added that most of the violations involve weapons rather than drugs or alcohol.
“Once in a while, a student will bring (a weapon) to school with the thought that they need to protect themselves or they want to show off to their buddies,” said Hutchings.
Generally, the weapon is a small pocket knife or even a butter knife.
“But no matter what, we are vigilant and we need to address these incidents when they happen,” said Hutchings. “I’ve looked at the discipline reports and the students did not have malicious intent.”
Sometimes students will even turn themselves in. If not, a friend is likely to tell a teacher that something is going on, said Hutchings.
He continued, “Kids are very likely to inform an adult if they become aware of (a situation). Most kids really have a strong belief that drugs, alcohol and weapons do not belong at school.”
Elkhart students involved in incidents during the 2011-12 school year were all suspended rather than expelled and most suspensions were between one and five days out of school.
“The suspensions are a wake-up call for the students,” said Hutchings. “It’s an opportunity for students and parents to have a discussion about not bringing those items to school.”
In the Elkhart Community School Corp., Pinewood, Hawthorne, Beardsley Cleveland, Osolo, and Bristol elementary schools all had drug, alcohol, or weapon incidents in the 2011-12 school year.
Other area elementary schools that suspended or expelled students for drugs, alcohol, or weapon incidents include Parkside, Chandler, Concord West Side, Concord Ox Bow, and Jimtown.
Wayne Stubbs, superintendent of Concord Community Schools, said that students had accidentally brought pocket knives to school.
“They were not threatening other students — they had just forgotten the items in a pants pocket,” said Stubbs.
He added that every student and parent knows what is acceptable and what’s not.
“This is something we address in our handbook,” said Stubbs.
The Concord students were also suspended, as was the case with Goshen students involved in similar incidents.