Letter from the Headmaster about Alcohol and Tobacco
Dear parents and guardians,
As we move into the final term, I write to you about some concerns I have about the health and safety of our students and how as a community we can effectively address them.
Over the last week the school has had to discipline students for deliberate and calculated violations of our tobacco policy and, in one instance, our alcohol policy. Such incidents are painful for students and their families, as well as disruptive and destructive to the culture of the school.
They are also, it is important to emphasize, exceedingly rare. In fact, we know from the confidential student surveys and research we have undertaken with Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), a leading provider of school-based prevention services, that our students lead healthy lives and make good decisions. “The vast majority of King’s students,” they concluded in their report, “hold positive beliefs, engage in responsible decision-making and exhibit healthy behaviors.”
Nonetheless, this is not an area where a residential school like King’s can afford to be complacent. The use of tobacco and alcohol affects every student, every family and every member of the community. Students who use addictive substances on campus necessarily commit themselves to a program of systematic concealment, obliging faculty to act as policemen, rather than teachers and mentors. The result is an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion that distorts the kind of supportive relationship between young people and adults the school strives to create. Everyone pays a price for this behavior.
On-Campus Use of Banned Substances
We understand how challenging it sometimes is for young people to make healthy decisions. The tobacco and alcohol industries continue to prey upon them. They seek to exploit our children’s neurological immaturity and cognitive predisposition to take risks. They cleverly use new technologies for the delivery of addictive substances in the form of new vaping mechanisms, electronic cigarettes or sleek products like JUUL. Popular culture celebrates and glamorizes the use of alcohol, tobacco and sometimes drugs. Systematic and well-resourced advertising campaigns intentionally target young people. Social media amplifies, magnifies and distorts, making incidents of adolescent use of banned substances seem much more widespread than they in fact are.
We are committed to combatting these cultural forces and creating a learning environment that is entirely free of addictive substances, and we are working intentionally – and have been working – to ensure that this is the case. I wrote to you about our educational efforts in this area earlier in the year and in that letter I described to you the lasting impact that early experimentation with alcohol and tobacco has on the health and development of young people.
A full description the school’s policies and expectations in this area can be found here.
I do want to be clear: students risk suspension and required withdrawal if they violate our expectations in this area. Students who bring tobacco and alcohol to campus and who work intentionally against our expectations by distributing it to others will almost certainly be asked to leave the school.
Off-Campus Use of Banned Substances
We know that there is a powerful relationship between off-campus use on the weekends and the behavior of students on campus – and here is where I would ask for your help and support. Some students, it is clear, are experimenting with alcohol and tobacco when they are off campus during the weekends, and we know they are not always well-chaperoned by responsible adults. We know that this happens because students and parents report to us that this is the case.
These off-campus behaviors pose a risk to our school. We know from experience that it is only a matter of time before off-campus experimentation with tobacco and alcohol makes its way onto our campus. This is one reason we have sought to clarify our weekend sign-out and boarding policies, why we do not allow students to sign out to hotels or to apartments and why we have written to you about our concerns about unchaperoned weekend events and parties. It is also why when we have a concern or prior knowledge about an off-campus event where alcohol will be present we contact the relevant parents.
While we understand that parents of older students may have a different, and perhaps more permissive, approach to the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, it is important for you as parents to know that we reserve the right to dismiss any student who violates Jordanian law or whose off-campus behavior damages the reputation of the school, and we would remind parents that the purchase and consumption of tobacco and alcohol is illegal for minors in Jordan.
I hope that you will discuss the contents of this letter with your children. Reaffirm with them your family values and your own hopes for their future. Reiterate with them the school’s expectations. And reach out to us if we can help or support in any way.
A final announcement: after some consultation and study, we have decided to move our prom out of Ramadan and to change the date to May 3. We hope that this will be a wonderful event and we trust that all gatherings following prom are joyous and safe occasions for all.