New Castle News

October 18, 2013

New Castle students disciplined over marijuana

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Three New Castle football players have been suspended from school for allegedly having marijuana at an out-of-town event.

Two of the players, who tested positive for marijuana use, no longer are on the football team, according to superintendent John Sarandrea, who said, “They are not eligible afterward.”

The third player was allowed back on the team because “the infractions were different,” he said, explaining that student did not participate in using the drug.

The school board voted Wednesday to suspend all three players for 10 days.

At the end of their 10-day suspensions, the two who had tested positive for marijuana will be expelled for 45 days, according to board action Wednesday night.

The board suspended a fourth student — not part of the football team incident — for 45 days for having been under the influence of marijuana while on district property Aug. 29, three days after school opened this year.

Sarandrea said the determination for that student was made through reasonable suspicion drug testing, and that the district looks for specific behavioral patterns to determine reasonable suspicion.

All four had private hearings before the school board before their suspensions were finalized.

In the incident regarding the three football players, district records indicate they had been attending a New Castle district-sponsored event in Hoover, Ala., July 24 and were staying at the Hyatt Regency Winfrey Hotel there.

That evening, head football coach Joe Cowart was delivering pizza to a room of one of the three students and smelled marijuana, according to records.

One of the students admitted to having marijuana but his drug test was negative, the records indicate. The other two admitted possession and that they had used marijuana, and their drug tests were positive, according to the records.

The students all are required to attend drug counseling and testing as recommended by the Lawrence County Drug and Alcohol Program and any other programs recommended by similar agencies and the school district.

The students are not allowed on school district grounds for any purpose during their suspensions or expulsions.

In the instances of the two expelled football players, they may be readmitted after their 45-day expulsions if they have complied with the counseling and testing. During the expulsion period, if their parents waive the right to provide an alternative education plan they will be assigned to the district’s academy to attend classes, where they must maintain good grades and attitude.

The student who was expelled who was not part of the team will be placed in the district’s academy and must attend the Cray After School Program.

The academy offers a series of high school classes in subjects such as math, science and social studies to students who have had behavioral problems and who have violated school policies while in the regular classes.

Coming Saturday: School district releases names in tuition probe

The New Castle school district has identified three employees who failed to pay required tuition for their children.

The employees, all teachers, were the subject of a finding earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office. That finding directed the school district to recoup more than $100,000 the employees owed the district.

In July, the New Castle News sought a list of the names of these employees from the school district but was turned down. The News pursued the matter under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law and eventually won access to the list in a decision by the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.

In tomorrow’s paper, we will have the list of names and other details in the case.