Task Force to Review Constructive Possession Rule

by Joseph Walsh
Class of 2016

Following heavy protests, the Braintree School Committee has created a task force in order to review and possibly revise Braintree High School’s constructive possession and social probation policies.

The task force will be made up of School Committee Chairman David Ringius Jr., Braintree High School resource officer Lisa Fahey, athletic director Michael Denise, Housemaster Andrew Delery, parents Kerrie Dougherty and Cathy Maguire, as well as current seniors Brooke Lochiatto and Megan Rennie.

“My idea was to look at this in a broad base way,” said Ringius. “So we are not just getting one single perspective.”

The group will examine Braintree High School’s current constructive possession policy, and how it affects students. The group will decide if any changes are necessary and will then submit their proposal to the Committee for approval.

The policy, which was approved by the School Committee in July, currently reads: “Constructive Possession means possession in which the possessor does not physically have the item on his or her person but is aware that the item is present and is able to exercise intentional control or dominion over it…. If you are in the presence of alcohol and are aware of its existence, you should take immediate steps to remove yourself from the setting.”

It was noted by several Committee members that the Braintree Police are quite lenient with first time offenders of this policy; whereas in many surrounding communities students would be arrested, the Braintree Police Department only notifies the school about the identity of the offenders. Many parents of the students who have recently been affected by this policy argued that this is in fact a disadvantage, because students are denied the due process of law that they would be subject to in the court system.

“We were considered guilty until proven innocent,” said Janina Ribiero (‘15).

Ribiero, Danielle Tressler and one other senior were all stripped of their respective captainships due to violation of the constructive possession policy. All three students were found to have not been drinking, but they were allegedly present at a party where underage drinking occurred. After their punishment was announced, Tressler and Ribiero, along with over two dozen other students, brought the issue to the attention of the Committee on October 6th.

Headmaster James Lee maintained that standard procedures were followed for each of these cases, and stated that all students were given a chance to explain their side of the story before final decisions were made.

Ringius made it clear that if any changes are made to the constructive possession policy, they will not affect students who violated the policy prior to the approval of the changes.

The task force is expected to submit its proposal in early 2015.

Joseph Walsh is an editor-in-chief of Braintree High News. He also serves as a student representative on The Braintree Public Schools School Committee