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Youth Panel discusses School Policies

Youth Panel 12-3-14Silver City, New Mexico, December 5, 2014:  A panel of local youth, joined by over thirty concerned community members, delved into School Policies at a recent Town Hall held on Wednesday, (December 3, 2014) and hosted by the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (YSAPC). 

Attendees called for uniform enforcement of school policies, especially regarding dress codes; treatment and counseling options for students abusing drugs, and yearly training for staff and students on new or updated school policies.

Youth panelists included Cheyenne Kimmick and Caitlin Zollinge, both seniors at Silver High School, and XuanDie’ Chavez, a 7th Grade Student Senator at La Plata Middle School. Panelists scheduled from Cobre School District were unable to attend due to required training for the Football Championship Play-offs.

All three panelists reported personally experiencing school policies unfairly or arbitrarily enforced by school staff, especially regarding dress code, but also regarding bullying, fighting and substance abuse. Also, panelists called for more student input into school policies; especially through the existing schools’ student councils.

Attendees Yasmine Marquez, 16 and Kyeasha Rivera, 12, said their personal experiences and attitudes on school policies were reflected by the panelists’.   “We have three pages of policy on clothing and the other policy [substance abuse] has three sentences. It appears our school district is obsessed with clothing,” observed Hugh Epping, an attendee.  

Zollinger agreed, “The dress code, when printed, is a whole page long and the drug policy is a paragraph. The schools are more focused on what kids are wearing than what we are putting into our bodies.”

Kimmick added, “The dress code is more enforced than the policies for drugs or fighting.”

Many Town Hall participants voiced concern over the substance abuse policies which are punitive, not rehabilitative, in nature.  As a mother of three students, Sonya Rivera said of the substance abuse policy, “The consequences are only suspension or expulsion. Why deny them an education? Mandatory treatment, counseling, and rehabilitation are what are needed.”

The panelists and attendees called for consistency in enforcement on school policies, and a possible grievance system to be put into place for students who feel their reports or issues are not being properly addressed by school staff.

Kimmick said that more training is needed by staff on youth mental health issues and where to refer students for aid. 

Zollinger said, “We need to bridge the communication gap between youth and adults. Town Halls, like these, are a start to open communication.”

The YSAPC will share discussion topics and suggestions for policy change from the Town Hall with the local school boards and administration. This is the second town hall hosted by the YSAPC, which hopes to use input to help focus their Coalition’s future efforts. A third town hall is scheduled for March 2015 in Bayard to gather school policy issues from both school districts.

The YSAPC is composed of 25 invested providers and community members dedicated to creating an environment that cultivates healthy productive lifestyles through policy and advocacy change that promotes resilient and empowered youth.

For more information on the YSAPC call (575) 388-1198 or visit their website at www.facebook.com/YSAPC. The Silver Consolidated Schools’ Parent/Student Handbook can be downloaded at http://www.silverschools.org/contact_school/parent__student_handbook_-_2014-15_school_year and the Cobre Consolidated Schools’ at http://www.cobre.k12.nm.us/board_of_education/board_policies

The YSAPC  is a program of the Grant County Community Health Council, the Health and Wellness Planning Authority of the Grant County Board of Commissioners, and is supported by Gila Regional Medical Center. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 January 2015 09:13

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