Parents May Get Word If College Students Err

Parents May Get Word If College Students Err
Posted by FoM on October 11, 1999 at 10:55:51 PT
By Tara Burghart
Source: Deseret News
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. When it comes to college, Mom and Dad often pay the bills and Junior has the fun, partying without having to worry about a scolding for staying out too late or drinking too much.Now, Junior may have to start worrying.
Congress amended federal confidentiality laws last year to give universities the option of telling parents when students under 21 violate campus codes on drugs or alcohol.Some schools  including the University of Delaware, Indiana University, Penn State and most colleges in Virginia  have already put notification policies in place.Others  like the huge University of California system  have to deal with strict state privacy laws that prevent them from telling parents about student misbehavior unless the student's safety is threatened.But most colleges and universities across the country  including the University of Illinois  are still debating whether to take advantage of the change."Nationally, campuses find themselves in a dilemma. The public expectation is that students will graduate with good grades, get good jobs and do so in a safe environment," said Nancy Schulte, the coordinator of drug education services at George Mason University in Virginia who has also served on national alcohol task forces."Universities are trying to balance taking care of students, knowing that they also have to establish their own independence and take responsibility for their own actions," she said.As administrators work to shape the University of Illinois' policy, they know where students stand on parental notification  firmly against it.A recent advisory referendum asked the university's students if the college should notify parents of students who break alcohol and drug codes. More than 5,800 students voted against the idea and 1,211 voted for it  the highest turnout for a student election in at least 10 years."Students have a right to live here free of the possibility of having their mommy and daddy called," said student government president Jeff Shapiro."This law is absolutely a violation of the privacy of students," he said.Typically, administrators have contacted parents only when drinking or drug use led to death or serious injury.Five alcohol-related deaths on campuses in Virginia led Sen. John W. Warner from that state to push the amendment last year that cleared the way for colleges to notify parents of any drug or alcohol infraction by an underage student.At the most basic level, universities have to decide when to put in a call to a mother or father. Every time an underage student is caught with a beer? Only when a student drinks so much that he ends up in the hospital? Or some fuzzy point in between?At the University of Delaware, administrators decided to share with parents all information concerning students who had been found guilty of violating campus code  from sexual assault to academic dishonesty to underage drinking. Under the policy, students with three alcohol or drug violations are suspended from campus.In the two years since the get-tough procedures have been in place, the University of Delaware has seen dramatic improvements in what once was a serious problem with campus alcohol abuse, said Tim Brooks, the university's dean of students.Vandalism in residence halls is down, along with the number of alcohol overdoses that led to hospitalization, the number of students who binge drink and the campus judicial caseload.Brooks said some parents handle the problem just by talking to their children, while others have insisted their son or daughter get counseling or enter a rehabilitation program."Parents really appreciate what we are doing. As a whole, parents are very concerned about their sons' and daughters' potential for alcohol and drug abuse. They really want to know if something is going on, and if it is they want to be part of the team to try to rectify the situation," he said.Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based American Council on Education, said most colleges and universities are still trying to decide how to handle the option of parental notification."This provision gives institutions another arrow in their quiver in dealing with alcohol and drug abuse on campus," he said. "Only time will tell how much it helps."Deseret News, Monday, October 11, 1999, 12:00 AM MDTCopyright  1999, Deseret News Publishing Corp. Related Articles:Awakening The Student Body Politic Leaders in Drug Policy & Justice
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