Unruly Behavior Curbed By School Policy
The 24/7 rule ties behavior outside of school to privileges inside.
Haddonfield coach Frank Delano delivered a simple message Friday moments after a heart-pumping, fist-clinging upset win for the high school's first football championship in 46 years.
"I'm begging you, think before you do anything," he pleaded as the team gathered near him on a bitter-cold, wind-swept night. "I'm begging you, be smart and enjoy yourselves but remember who and what you represent."
It's a message they've heard before, in triumph and in sorrow. It's drummed into them daily. It's not only suggested, it's strictly enforced.
The Haddonfield school district calls it the 24/7 policy. That means students are expected to conduct themselves safely and orderly at all times, and above all not abuse alcohol or drugs. The consequences included getting banned from extracurricular activities and maybe jail.
The policy was put into place three years ago after a series of alcohol- and drug-fueled binges that left two teens dead in separate incidents.
School board President Steve Weinstein said school and borough officials know kids will be kids. Some will make smart decisions and some won't. But he thinks the policy will be a success if the rules save even one child from tragedy.
"Many kids did not want to drink but felt pressured by their peers," Weinstein said. "Decision making is important and good decision making is important. They have to learn if you want to be a leader, you have to have certain responsibility."
The idea of linking behavior outside of school to privileges inside was not immediately popular among parents.
"Some parents said we were intruding on their responsibility," Weinstein said. "They were concerned that if someone got caught it might affect their ability to go to college. But now they understand what the program is about. We don't have a bunch of parents coming to school board meetings complaining about it."
The policy is designed to gradually increase the penalty for repeat offenders. The first offense triggers a discussion with the student and possibly a session with a counselor. The second offense could bring a suspension of some activities. The third or fourth infraction leads more serious sanctions.
Not every district parent is on board, though most families have "learned to live with it," Weinstein said. A pending lawsuit in federal court in Camden is challenging the program, officials said. The suit was filed by the parents of a child who allegedly ran afoul of the rules.
Weinstein said he and other school officials have taken the challenges to the policy in stride. He said the tough-love approach is winning converts, especially among the kids.
"There are fewer incidents and almost no second incidents," Weinstein said. "When kids go out now they know this is something they have to deal with and factor it into their decision making. People tell me all the time, 'thank you.'"