The Bozeman School Board is preparing to update its discipline policies for student athletes who violate drug, alcohol and tobacco rules by clarifying what happens with end-of-season violations and by encouraging honesty and cooperation.

Under the proposed changes, when an athlete violates the rules at the end of one sports season, coaches or administrators would have discretion to keep the athlete from competing in up to five games in the following season or the next sport the student hopes to join.

In addition, any student who refuses to cooperate with an investigation, who is dishonest about his or her involvement or who flees the scene of an investigation would be considered to have violated the drug and alcohol policy and disciplined under the same rules.

The revised policy would also add a sentence saying that, “Administration may consider a student’s honesty and the student’s choice to be forthcoming … when there is discretion for leniency in the application for a particular consequence.”

School Board trustees discussed the proposed changes at Monday’s meeting, and expressed support for the revisions, which are recommended by the Montana School Boards Association. Trustees are expected to vote on approving the changes at their next meeting Jan. 28.

Lynda White, the school district’s attorney, said the changes are a tool to “encourage honesty.”

Trustee Denise Hayman said the situation she often hears about occurs when a student-athlete attends a party where teens are using drugs or alcohol, but never comes forward and admits to being there, while others get caught and are removed from the team.

“My hope is it might give the administration some more leeway to ferret out the truth,” Hayman said.

“This gives an incentive to come forward,” White said, though she added that no system is ever going to be perfect.

Randy Russell, district activities director, said he had discussed the changes with coaches, who had some reservations but understand the idea.

The drug, alcohol and tobacco policy applies to all middle school and high school activities, including sports and speech and debate.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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