5 students expelled for buying, using marijuana on trip

The Key School also punishes 11 others for actions in Costa Rica

April 29, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis private school has expelled five high school students after they confessed to purchasing and smoking marijuana on a school trip to Costa Rica, according to school officials.

The Key School sent 21 students to the Central American country during midwinter break in February as an extension of environmental study.

Of those, 16 violated school policies in some way, said head of school Marcella Yedid. The students who were not expelled will receive a range of punishments; some will be suspended.

Students had signed a written agreement before leaving regarding drug and alcohol use. If caught, they knew they could be sent home early and would face sanctions from the school.

The school began to investigate when gossip began to swirl after students returned.

Last month, the head of the upper school, Todd Casey, gathered the students who went on the trip and asked them to write down what they had done - not the actions of others.

A disciplinary team of faculty and elected students reviewed the actions and determined the consequences, Yedid said.

Upper school students also discussed their views about the incident violations and the school's values with school leaders Monday, she added. School leaders met with parents to inform them about the situation Monday evening.

"We at the Key School know that we are not different from what every other school faces," Yedid said. "Where we are different is the desire to be open to such discretions and talk about the values that bind our community."

These values include the balance between liberty and personal responsibility, she said.

The school head described the situation as an opportunity to foster critical thinking.

We "take these circumstances and extrapolate from them lessons for life," she said.

Reaction was mixed. Some parents and students were concerned about the severity of the punishments. Others, however, supported the decision, saying the school needed to discipline the students for putting their classmates at risk.

"They made some mistakes that really could have created some danger for the people they were traveling with," said parent Ginger Woolridge.

"They've lost the opportunity to come back to Key School, which doesn't strike me as unreasonable given the ethics and personal responsibility that are part of the culture of the school," parent Michael Damas said of the students who were expelled.

The punishments will be a lesson to other students, Woolridge said.

"Everybody's very sympathetic to the families," she said. "Any kid could have made the mistake."

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