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Chester County Press

Kennett School Board approves updated policies for guns and drugs

05/15/2023 10:28PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett School Board approved upgrades to its weapons and drug policies, but not without extended dialogue about the nature of enforcement applied to student violators.
Policy Committee Chairman Don Kohler presented the details of the two policies at the May 8 board meeting. The resolutions were then put on the table by assistant superintendent Michael Barber and were approved by the board.
Kohler introduced the topics, saying that they were “not an easy nut to crack.”
The code defines weapons as knives, cutting instrument, firearms and other implements capable of inflicting bodily harm. But it also includes “replicas” of weapons, which could call into question things like water pistols and butter knives.
The policy provides that the board “shall expel,” for not less than a year, any student who is in possession of a “weapon.”
Kohler advised further conversations with local law enforcement to determine exactly what replicas of weapons are. 
“We don’t want to be accused of arbitrarily treating a student unfairly. … because what is a replica? I put my finger up like a gun? We don’t want to go down that rabbit hole,” he said.
 The policy includes wording that states, “(T)he superintendent may recommend modifications of such expulsion requirement on a case-by-case basis.”
Board member Ethan Cramer took issue with the expression “shall expel” and said it more appropriately should say “may expel.”
Kohler referenced the discretion clause that is given to the superintendent in the wording, but Cramer claimed that he was still uncomfortable with it.
Superintendent Dusty Blakey assured Cramer and the other members of the board that he has monthly meetings with Kennett Square Police Chief William Holdsworth to discuss any legal matters that come up. He added that the main purpose of the weapons code is to ensure student safety.
A discussion of the drug policy followed.
The drug policy forbids the possession and distribution of mind-altering illegal drugs as well as being under the influence of such in the school.
“Any student who violates this prohibition shall be subject to discipline, which may include exclusion from school and referral for prosecution,” the policy states.
It adds, however, ”(T)he superintendent may recommend to the board any measures he or she deems reasonable and necessary to control such abuse, even if his or her recommendation exceeds the minimum standards of this  policy. The board may require participation in drug counseling.”
The policy also provides that the superintendent will contact the parents or guardians of student violators as well as the police.
Cramer said he was more comfortable with the wording of the drug policy than with the weapons policy. “Never take away discretion,” he said.
Both documents are lengthy and contain detailed explanations and definitions. Kohler explained that they contain wording concurrent with regulations sourced from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
At the meeting, the board approved a motion declaring its intent to renew the contract of Dusty Blakey as district superintendent and to re-appoint him to that position. The contract will be negotiated between Blakey and the board, with the vote to approve the new contract expected at the board meeting on July 10.
The board also approved the contract renewal of district CFO Mark Tracy, who has been with the district for 22 years.