June 3, 2016
by Michael Durso
The recent events surrounding the Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) High School graduation have once again put the issue of underage drinking and substance use squarely in front of us. Understandably, there are strong feelings on all sides of the decision rendered regarding the participation in graduation ceremonies of some students who consumed alcohol during the school’s prom activities.
I believe it is time for us to move forward as a community and address the very serious and longstanding issue of alcohol and drug use among our youth. Let me assure you that this Board and Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers are fully supportive of Dr. Donna Redmond Jones as principal of B-CC High School. Her efforts this year, working with the B-CC community to address the issue of underage drinking and substance use are to be commended, and it is incumbent upon all of us to make it abundantly clear that the decision in this disciplinary case in no way sends a message that we are not serious about combatting the issue. We will continue to stand with Dr. Jones in addressing this issue in the appropriate way.
We have to come together as a community to support our parents and local schools to step up and deal with this issue because of its devastating impact in the homes and in our communities. We have to ask ourselves some hard, uncomfortable questions going forward. I know that I speak for my colleagues on the Board when I say that we pledge to work with our parents and adults in our schools to be more vigilant in our community and to use fair, equitable and consistent rules and guidelines to confront the problem of alcohol and drug use. We want to work with our schools to ensure there are structures and local school policies in place to keep students safe. We recognize and agree with the broader local, state, and national efforts to move away from zero tolerance student disciplinary policies. We also know that structures and consequences must be in place to send messages that underage drinking is not acceptable. We believe we can tackle both underage drinking and remain true to our beliefs about appropriate and progressive discipline. We applaud the B-CC community and so many of our other communities for their hard work, and we look forward to our continued work together to address the issue of underage use of alcohol.
Finally, we appreciate the feedback we got from concerned members of the B-CC community and salute them for their concern, their support of Dr. Jones, and more importantly, for initiating a robust conversation about this issue. The Board, Mr. Bowers, our incoming superintendent Dr. Jack Smith, and all of our staff stand ready to work with our parents to address this issue. We must work hand in hand to make sure that we are teaching our teens to make healthy and responsible decisions. We cannot let the lesson of the B-CC prom be lost. It’s time for all of us adults to unify and join forces to support our students and keep them safe as they emerge from these adolescent years as responsible adults.