DALLAS -- With the start of a new high school sports season comes many changes for area athletes.
There's new teammates, new starters and, in some cases, new coaches.
This school year, however, athletes at Dallas High School will adhere to a new code of conduct after many changes were implemented recently.
The revisions, centering on the consequences for drug- and alcohol-related offenses, come courtesy of Tim Larson, Dallas High's athletic director, and school administration.
"The biggest difference is that students have the opportunity to earn their way back," Larson said of the new policy. "I didn't like 'three strikes and you're out.'"
Under the new code of conduct, the consequences for violations appear similar in regard to the various lengths of suspension, but there are key differences.
The first is that after a second infraction of the alcohol policy, students must undergo a dependency assessment and are required to adhere to its recommendations. Failure to do so would result in a yearlong dismissal from athletics.
Larson feels that implementing a chemical dependency assessment after only two violations is something that could prevent a student from ever reaching his or her third strike.
In addition, a student can no longer be banned from athletics for the entirety of his or her high school career after a third violation of the code of conduct. This consequence would only be enforced if a student in his or her third violation fails to comply with the district's diversion program.
"It's something that we've been working on," said Larson. "We thought, 'Are we really hitting the mark (with the old code of conduct)?'"
Finally, the new code of conduct attempts to narrow down athletic suspensions to mainly drug and alcohol offenses as opposed to non-substance violations that were punishable by the school.
"I didn't think that double-dinging them was fair to the athletes," said Larson, who brought up in-school behavioral misconduct as an example of something that would have previously resulted in consequences enforced by both the school and the athletic department. "It's more a narrowing down of the code than anything."
The athletic director stresses that the new policy has nothing to do with gaining a competitive advantage.
"If that's what it's about, we wouldn't have the code," said Larson. "It's not for the sake of participation; it's for the sake of how can we help these guys and gals."
And, as Larson notes, not many students violate the code.
"We have great kids here, so it doesn't affect that many people," he said, noting that, to his knowledge, only three students in the many years of the old policy violated it enough times to face a high school career ban from athletics.
Larson said he has not faced any opposition to the revisions, at least not yet. But he is confident the new code will be beneficial.
"I think it'll be effective in the long run because it initiates help before it's too late," he said.