Blue Book Revision Addresses Anonymous Reporting

A change in the 2019-2020 Blue Book has altered Andover’s policy on drug and alcohol response. Now, if a student is anonymously reported for possessing alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or nicotine, he or she may not face disciplinary action. Instead, the school can choose to enact the sanctuary policy, which allows students to seek support for substance use without facing disciplinary action.

According to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, the revised policy aims to give the administration more leeway to invoke sanctuary in cases of anonymous reports.

“We added a sentence to the Blue Book that states, ‘Generally, no disciplinary action will be taken solely on anonymous reports regarding alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and/or nicotine use.’ This sentence offers a little bit of flexibility, particularly when we receive anonymous information without any context or details, and it offers us to invoke the Sanctuary policy if there are no other details around a student’s decision making behavior,” said Elliott.

Frequent reports of substance abuse on Andover’s EthicsPoint, an anonymous reporting website intended to combat sexual misconduct, prompted the administration to create an alternative plan for other reports. In practice, the administration found that utilizing the Sanctuary policy would be most effective for such anonymous reports.

Elliott said, “Students have used our EthicsPoint, which is an online option to offer anonymous reports. It was originally created for behaviors around sexual misconduct, and in the past, students have also used it to report, in ways that we have not expected, instances of substance use. We needed to respond to how we were going to respond to those anonymous reports.”

Elliott continued, “We have always seen the Sanctuary policy as a way to support our students and for them to access support if or when they are worried about themselves or their peers, so we don’t want to complicate that access in any way or make barriers for kids reaching out to adults.”

Cole Walker ’22 noted that the new policy prevents false accusations from being lodged against a student.

“Before, I have witnessed some very messed up situations where people were submitting fake reports about others due to bad relationships or attempting to earn board positions over one another. I believe that more frequent implications of the Sanctuary system will provide a healthy atmosphere for all,” said Walker.

Piper Drew ’20, a Disciplinary Committee Representative for Pine Knoll Cluster, finds the Sanctuary system to be helpful in improving the mental state of students.

Drew said, “I’m a big fan of the Sanctuary policy just because I think first and foremost, people’s health is the priority, and if you do have an addiction or something, you should be going to rehab or getting actual help for it instead of getting kicked out. That’s not good for your mental state if you first got kicked out of school, and you’re struggling with some form of substance abuse. I think having there be more options or availability to be Sanctuaried is useful.”

Elliott mainly hopes that the school’s new stance on such anonymous reports will foster a more trusting community that provides essential care for all students under the influence of prohibited materials.

Elliott said, “My hope is that we live in an environment where students are free from drugs, alcohol, and substance use. We want to community to be safe as possible. If students cannot bring reports of others to us, we want to make sure that the reported students get the care that they need. Overall, we want to provide care to all the students who are worried about this, so we do not want to create any sort of barriers.”

In addition to emphasizing the importance of the Sanctuary policy, Elliott also made clear that the possession of drugs, alcohol, or other illicit substances is against community standards.

“I think that it is important to message clearly that students should not have any substances in any location. That is the community expectation. At any point, if they are found to have such things in their possession, they should expect the school to respond. I don’t want there to be any confusion on that part,” said Elliott.