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Dedham Students Now Face Punishment For Incidents Off School Grounds

DEDHAM (CBS) - The rules of the game are about to change in Dedham.

Effective Thursday morning, Dedham public school students who get in trouble off campus may find themselves punished in school.

This enhanced agreement, known as a "Memorandum of Understanding" between school officials and Dedham Police creates a long list of incidents that now must be reported to school principals, whether or not those incidents happen in Dedham. That list includes fights, or threats of fights, off school grounds.

"I don't think you should really get in trouble for something out of school," says Dedham High School senior Annie Joy Abbott. "You're not even on school property."

The measure passed 6 - 1 Wednesday night, ending months of debate. The only school board member to vote against it did so because he wanted the agreement to be even tougher.

Principals now have the most power to punish kids who are caught with drugs or booze outside of school. Those students can face up to a month's suspension.

The version approved on Wednesday had been changed from earlier drafts which many parents found objectionable. This version of the Memorandum of Understanding is in effect only during the school year, whereas prior drafts would have had these rules in place year round. Also, former versions of the plan would have had students get into serious trouble for merely being "in the presence" of alcohol or drugs (as in at a party). The version adopted specifies that kids must be "in possession" of the substance in question.

Still, many moms and dads think the whole concept is just too much.

Camilla Rush is a mom with three sons, one of whom has already graduated from Dedham public schools; the other two are still students here.

"I do think that it's good to have a backup," Rush said. "But I think sometimes they need to let us parents be parents. Let us punish the kids. I do like if you need help, you can go to someone for backup, but let us be parents too."

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