A new Arlington County program will soon offer a second chance for teenagers caught using drugs or alcohol: a three-day session on substance abuse that will take the place of a school suspension or court hearing.
The shift comes as many school districts in the Washington region reevaluate their disciplinary policies, particularly those known as “zero tolerance,” which provide little flexibility once a student is charged.
“The consequences are so dire or life-altering that students and adults are afraid to engage those who might be able help,” said Mary H. Hynes (D), vice chairman of the Arlington County Board.
Beginning in the fall, the Second Chance program will be available to students charged with a first offense of using alcohol or marijuana. To avoid a suspension — a punishment that often complicates a student’s academic trajectory — students must bring a guardian to the three-day session, where experts will detail the risks related to substance abuse.