Students have one more reason to avoid being caught drinking underage this year as parents will be notified when students receive alcohol violations, GW officials said.
GW only notified parents about drug violations and hospitalizations up until this spring, when the University decided to contact parents when Student Judicial Services finds a student guilty of an alcohol violation, said Brian Hamluk, director of Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.
“Parents have said ‘why didn’t we know about a problem earlier’ after being notified about hospitalizations,” Hamluk said. He also said some students who went through the different levels of alcohol sanctions noted that that they would have liked to know “what role their parents could have played.”
“A lot of students said had their parents been notified, it could have deterred them (from committing another violation),” Hamluk said.
Hamluk said parents will only be informed of an incident if the student is found in violation of GW alcohol policy by SJS. CADE officials will then send a letter to parents informing them of the alcohol violation and the consequences the student will face.
SJS Director Rebecca Sawyer said there will be no changes in the way SJS hears cases and underage students in the presence of alcohol will still be charged with a minor first-time offense.
“Hopefully, this change can help students to make better choices,” Sawyer said. “If they are at a party and they see alcohol … we want them at that point to take the opportunity to remove themselves from the situation.”
Hamluk said the disclosure of alcohol violations does not violate the 1974 Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
FERPA prohibits any private or public schools receiving federal education funds from disclosing most education records and “personally identifiable information” without student consent according to the Department of Education Web site.
However, FERPA contains some exceptions that allow schools to release directory information like student names, addresses and phone numbers.
A 1998 amendment to the law also added an exception that allows universities and colleges to disclose student disciplinary violations to parents if the student is found in violation of using alcohol or controlled substances.
Hamluk said University officials are informing all incoming freshmen and parents of the change at Colonial Inauguration throughout the summer.
“Knowing that freshmen commit the majority of violations… we are trying to really hit them hard at CI,” Hamluk said.
He said continuing students will hear about the change at floor meetings in the beginning of the year and parents can read about the new policy in a Community Living and Learning Center parent newsletter.
Most incoming freshmen said parental notification will not greatly affect their decisions about alcohol, but acknowledged that it is another factor to consider.
“One factor is that I am a legal adult, but at the same time, my parents are paying for school … it’s another reason to not get caught,” said freshman Matt Lowery. “It will be in the back of my head but I’ll do what I was going to do anyway.”
Freshmen Phil Sherman said notification may cause some students to reconsider activities but, as always, students need to consider their own situation.
“My mother wouldn’t care too much (if she was informed about a violation) … she knows I’m mature,” Sherman said. “You’re supposed to experiment in college … but you have to have fun within reason.”
Hamluk said he does not expect a significant drop in the number of violations but hopes the change will lead students to make better decisions.