[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]
The number of University of Missouri System parents who were notified about their child’s first serious offense involving alcohol nearly doubled in the 2005-06 academic year compared with the previous year, according to a report given to the UM System Board of Curators at their July meeting.
“I don’t think the increase is a reflection on criminal increase, but a reflection on our policies,” said Kim Dude, assistant director of the Wellness Resource Center. “The university has gotten more accustomed to the policies.”
A serious offense is an instance in which there is harm associated with another individual or damage to property. The offense, one in a list of criteria for parent notification, experienced a jump from 15 notifications to 29, all of which were on the MU campus.
The list breaks down into three general categories: students under the influence of alcohol or other drugs on campus, an initial serious violation, or a subsequent violation.
The numbers of parental notifications for other offenses, such as a second offense involving controlled substances, rose slightly, while the numbers for drunken driving fell from 49 to 32.
In March 2001, the curators approved a controversial regulation which, among other things, allowed schools to contact parents concerning student consumption of alcohol or illegal substances that met certain criteria. The regulation was opposed by student groups but was approved by the board, which maintained that notification would allow parents the opportunity to intervene with substance problems before they hinder the student’s success. This approach, called environmental management, calls for many people to be part of the effort to decrease alcohol and other drug abuse.
“Parents are one of the most powerful prevention tools out there,” Dude said. “If we can involve the parents in addressing the issue, a partnership can be created to help the student get on the right track.”
Student conduct code violations rarely result in parent notification. Of the 1,513 student conduct code violations concerning illegal drugs or alcohol across the four UM campuses, 1,318 were at MU. Seventy four of the 1,513 violations resulted in parental notification.
Steve Lehmkuhle, UM senior vice president for academic affairs, said parent notification “is part of a longer-term effort working to curtail the harmful effects associated with alcohol and drug abuse.”
He said students typically learn about substance abuse before coming to college.
“(Curtailing alcohol and other drug use) is probably not something we are going to achieve in the next year, or 10 years,” Lehmkuhle said. “I do know if we don’t do anything, it will get much worse.”