Georgetown County student arrests policy mulled

Georgetown County School principals have given their seal of approval to a proposed district-wide policy that would allow them to suspend students from extracurricular activities if they get arrested off-campus.

The policy was drafted in a response to a recent uptick in students getting arrested off-campus and is meant to serve as a deterrent, officials said.

Two Waccamaw High School basketball players were arrested March 15 and charged with burglary after being caught inside a home. Another Waccamaw High School basketball player pleaded guilty Jan. 28 to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature with a finding of a sexually violent offense.

The school board will take on the proposal today at 7 p.m. at Georgetown High School.

There is no district-wide policy in place to deal with off-campus offenses. Each principal has his or her own procedure. But the ultimate consequences are left out of the principals' hands. A principal can recommend expulsion, but the student's fate is decided during a disciplinary hearing at the district office.

This new policy would give principals more authority, allowing them to suspend students from extracurricular activities like sports for a season, even if it means carrying discipline over to the next school year.

"I think it's a very good policy," said Mike Cafaro, principal at Georgetown High School. "Oftentimes what happens off-campus carries on to on-campus."

Waccamaw High School Principal David Hammel said the district policy, if passed, would help principals who find themselves in new territory.

"Usually when we have kids get in trouble off-campus, they are already in trouble on campus," he said. "Now, we are finding students who are model students on-campus and are getting in trouble off-campus."

He said his athletes who have gotten in trouble, have done so during the off-season.

"This policy now allows us to move disciplinary action into the next year," Hammel said.

The proposed policy allows principals, not just coaches, to bench players and suspend choir members and student council officers who get arrested off-campus.

"We have students athletes who are working for scholarships," said Carvers Bay Principal Richard Neal. "A lot of our students will rethink their negative behavior under this policy. I think it's a move in the right direction."

Under the policy the school's administrator could place a student who has been arrested off-campus on probation, prohibit participation in extracurricular activity, suspend or expel the student or place the student in an alternative school. The school administrator also could opt not to take any action against the student.

"If we don't put things in place, students would feel there are no barriers," Staggers said. "It will force them to think about the consequences beforehand."