A parent whose child was suspended recently for violating the Beverly Hills Unified School District's drug and alcohol abuse policy is pushing for a change that would allow more leniency for "good students who make a mistake."
Meanwhile, a PTA task force wants more parents involved this fall in fighting teen-age drug and alcohol abuse.
Hedda Goldberg said her daughter, Jill, is an A-minus student at Beverly Hills High School, was awarded the Most Valuable Player award on the girls' varsity tennis team and will attend Syracuse University this fall.
Like many other parents and students, Jill and her parents attended a pre-prom party where champagne was served. Jill, who says she is basically a nondrinker, had two glasses of champagne at the party.
Jill said that when she started eating during the prom dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 28, she began to feel light-headed. She went to the bathroom, where she said she may have fallen asleep.
Jill said a security guard took her to Principal Sol Levine, who asked her if she had been drinking. She acknowledged that she had champagne at the pre-prom party, and she was sent home.
The following week, she was suspended from school for five days.
Since 1985, the Beverly Hills Unified School District has had a tough policy against consumption of alcohol and drugs by students prior, during or after school-related activities. Students caught under the influence of or in possession of drugs or alcohol are immediately suspended for up to five days and can be expelled for up to six months.
Levine said the majority of the students who violated the policy have been expelled. But an administrative hearing board recognized Jill's scholastic and athletic achievements and the fact that pre-prom parties in which students consumed alcoholic beverages had been held throughout the city.
The board recommended that in addition to the five days' suspension, Jill be banned from participating in graduation ceremonies and undergo a drug and alcohol education program before she is awarded her diploma in August.
The school board upheld the recommendation.
Called Too Severe
Although Jill's punishment was less than the maximum, her mother said it was still too severe for a good student who had made only one mistake.
"I'm not saying that Jill shouldn't have been punished for breaking the rule; she should have," Goldberg said. "But not even all murderers get the electric chair."
Goldberg said her family has been humiliated by the experience and hurt by false rumors that her daughter is an alcoholic and that they were the family that held a party in April where students were allowed to drink.
She said she has gone public with the matter in an effort get the policy changed to allow more leniency for first-time offenders who have good school records.
"I don't want to see another family go through what we have for the past three weeks," Goldberg said.
Jill said the experience will scar her memories of high school. "It ended so badly."
Levine and district officials declined to discuss Jill's case.
However, Supt. Robert French said: "I don't see anything wrong with the policy."
'Send a Message'
School board member Frank Fenton said: "When you are asked to make a decision, you want to be right by each child. But the board also wants to send a message to the other kids that drugs and alcohol will not be tolerated."
Although it is widely known that many students attend pre-prom parties where alcohol is served to minors, neither Levine nor Fenton favors eliminating the prom as a way of attacking teen-age drinking.
"In the case of the prom, it is a very exciting time," Fenton said. "Everybody is celebrating. I can understand people being exuberant and parents handing their kids a glass of champagne to toast. But that's a different agenda. I have no intention of looking to change the prom."
Levine said: "I really don't think that eliminating the prom is going to eliminate the problem. The task force's efforts to get the help and assistance of the community is a good first step."
A task force of the Beverly Hills Council of PTA's plans to urge parents this fall to sign agreements not to let their children have parties where alcohol or drugs are served.
Students Already Sign
At the beginning of each school year, students at Beverly Hills High are asked to sign agreements to refrain from drinking alcohol or taking drugs prior, during or after school-related activities on or off campus.
Anneli Roth, a member of the task force and president of Arrive Alive, a program that provides free taxi rides home for intoxicated students, said parents, too, must take responsibility for their children's actions.
"I think it is unfortunate that a parent would give a kid a drink," Roth said. "They have no way of knowing what the kid's tolerance level is."
Levine called the task force idea "an excellent one."
"What they would like to do is enlist the help of parents to be certain that the opportunity for minors to drink is nonexistent," he said.