Roughly half a dozen students violated the Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking Policy on school trips over spring break, President Rick Commons said.
The school’s policy as written in the Student Parent Handbook states “it is forbidden to use, sell, or possess drugs or alcohol on campus, when traveling to or from campus, or at any school function, including school-sponsored trips and occasions when one is representing the school, even during vacation time.”
A junior on the Spider College Tour said two students used illicit substances on the trip.
“After a kid was suspected of having purchased marijuana, [Upper School Dean Celso] Cardenas said on the bus, ‘Hey guys, we heard about some stuff going on. Just don’t do anything stupid in the next five days,’” the junior said. “He was very straight with us. On top of all the stuff we already knew about not doing stuff in past cases, he even said ‘For those of you who I know have done this,’ even though they didn’t know who it was, ‘just stop it.’ They were very lenient with it in the beginning, and then after they got confirmed evidence, they had no choice but to pursue it.”
Commons said typically, when a student violates the Drug, Alcohol and Smoking Policy, the punishment is a suspension.
“I think that it’s part of the responsibility of the school to try to respond clearly and make both the individuals involved and the community more broadly understand that this isn’t allowed and there are very good reasons for why it’s not allowed, beginning with health and safety and secondly, the law,” Commons said.
Upper School Dean Jamie Chan said the students were sent home from the college tour.
“There was an incident on [a] college tour previously, and they did the same thing,” Chan said. “When they found out that something had happened, they sent the kids home that day, that night. So there has been [a] precedent set before.”
On the spring break Spain trip, however, no one was sent home despite incidents of several students buying and consuming hard alcohol, a sophomore on the trip said.
“When issues like drinking or drug use or other serious violations happen on a trip, it’s as if they happened here at [Harvard-Westlake],” Director of Kutler Center and Summer Programs Jim Patterson said.
Although these students were held responsible for violating school policy, all students on the trip were provided a drink with less than four percent alcohol in a three-ounce glass at a lunch in Madrid, world languages teacher and trip chaperone Javier Zaragoza said.
“Every trip we have gone to an Asturiano restaurant in Madrid where we toast with an Asturiano cider with less than four percent alcohol,” Zaragoza said. “Each student gets a three-ounce glass. I remind them this is a treat intended to complement the meal.”
Patterson was not immediately available for comment regarding this specific incident in which students consumed alcohol with chaperones present.
However, he said, in general, the Student Parent Handbook is clear about the alcohol policy when it comes to school-sponsored trips.
“There are lines that we have drawn, and we have said that, yes, we would like our students, when they travel abroad, to experience the culture of that country,” Patterson said. “However, the Harvard-Westlake rules that are expressly written in the handbook still apply to those students when they are in that country, and our Student Parent Handbook is pretty clear about drugs and alcohol. So those continue to apply on school trips regardless of the age of the student who is on that trip and of the legalities in the country to which they are traveling.”
The legal drinking age is Spain is typically 18; in some regions, however, it is lowered to 16, according to barcelonaconnect.com.
The sophomore on the trip said that those caught in violation of the alcohol policy were under the age of 18.