The Shawnee Mission School District has implemented a new alcohol and drug policy. The changed policy replaces one that left little room for interpretation. It called for a student to be removed from athletics completely after their first offense.
“The athletic directors in the district were trying to find a more equitable consequence,” Principal John McKinney said. “What we were finding was that different punishments were being issued for kids that were in season versus out of season, and kids at the beginning of their season versus at the end of their season.”
The new policy allows for the athlete to be issued a warning on the first and second offense.
“We always try to lean more towards the side of being fair,” McKinney said.
If the student continues more of the same illegal activity, the policy calls for administrators and coaches to issue a punishment equal with the severity of the offense. This contrasts significantly from the old policy – which called for the removal from the team regardless of the severity of the offense.
SMSD recognizes that the importance of athletics goes beyond winning. The district has long held the belief that sports play a role in a variety of aspects in a student’s life. A team provides a family atmosphere while giving each player a sense of identity.
“We don’t want to take away the only reason that some students come to school everyday,” McKinney said.
However, the brotherhood/sisterhood of a team leaves more room for peer pressure among other athletes. Based on a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2012 more than 9 million people between the ages of 12 and 20 reported drinking alcohol in the preceding month. This is almost 25 percent of people between these ages.
“If the upperclassmen teach the underclassmen that drinking is cool, then they’re passing on a tradition that shouldn’t be there,” Varsity Soccer Coach Jamie Kelly said. “Then it comes down to a group saying: ‘this isn’t what we do here because we care about winning and competing at the highest level.”
Based on the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 35.1 percent of 15-year-olds report that they have had at least one drink in their lives.
“Teenagers drink because it’s been foreign to us for so long that it’s a new source of fun and it also poses another aspect of fun in that we aren’t supposed to do it,” Sophomore John Smith* said.
Four years ago, the beloved Varsity Soccer player and Senior Tyler Rathbun was driving on an ATV after consuming alcohol at a party. The vehicle flipped taking the life of a loved student, athlete and friend. In order for a heartbreaking incident such as Rathbun’s to never happen again, the coaches of all teams really stress the importance of what can happen.
“I talk about Tyler all the time,” Kelly said. “He was a phenomenal kid and player. When Thanksgiving comes around, we have to go through the mourning all over again. You have the time from when you’re 21 until you die to drink. You have the rest of your life to go.”
SMSD is hopeful that the changed policy will encourage students to decrease the use of drugs and alcohol.
“Unfortunately, we know that this is a policy we have to have, so we are trying to be as flexible as possible, while providing the correct punishment.” McKinney said.