After hearing that it’s a problem even with some elementary students, the Hamburg School District’s school board voted Monday to change district policy to make sure students aren’t vaping on campus.
Superintendent Tracy Streeter introduced a policy update regarding tobacco products and vaping devices to the board at its regular meeting
“We do have a policy that is a Hamburg School District policy that we have gone back and looked at…that we just felt like we needed to update, if you will,” Streeter said. “So Ms. (Tricia) Johnson pulled the building principals together for consistency purposes and I’m really proud of what they’ve come up with.”
Johnson said the district’s administrators, the school resource officer, and even students provided input that led to the decision to update the tobacco and vaping policy.
Johnson said she was surprised to learn that there was a problem with vaping amongst elementary students in the district.
Johnson told the board that some middle school students had even voiced concern for their younger counterparts who are using vapes in school and on the buses.
Johnson said that the district modified the policy to include the word “possession” regarding vaping devices and the like because in some previous incidents, parents of children who were found to have a vaping device on school property claimed there was no wrongdoing by their child because it could not be proven that they used the device, only possessed it on campus.
Some students had likewise claimed said they were not violating the previous policy because they were using zero milligram vape juice.
Zero milligram vape juice does not contain nicotine or any other intoxicants, but without testing the liquid that is contained in a vaping device, there is no way to tell the difference between that and the kind that does contain nicotine.
The policy was also updated to reflect that it applies to “any nicotine delivery system” including vaping devices.
The policy was also updated to reflect a change to the minimum and maximum penalties for a violation.
The minimum penalty will now be “four days of (in school suspension) with a (tobacco use) cessation program and a four day suspension from all extracurricular activities.”
The maximum penalty for a violation is now legal action, including the filing of a (Family In Need of Service) petition or charges, dependent on the severity and frequency of the misconduct.”
The policy further states, “Policy violations occurring on a school bus or other school vehicle will result in a minimum of a five day bus suspension to a maximum of riding privileges being suspended for the remainder of the school year.”
Board member Shawn Carpenter asked why the ISS days were not upped for each offense.
Allbritton Elementary School Principal Blake Higginbotham said that they rarely go over three days for ISS, and Noble Elementary Principal Angela Maize added, “That’s why we had the conversation about cessation.”
Hamburg Middle School Principal Sara Watson said she feel like the ISS was doing anything.
“For some of these students, it isn’t fixing it,
she said. “That’s why we added these other things.”
Johnson added that parents who allow their children access to the devices are part of the problem.
Johnson pointed out that this is regarding tobacco products only, and said that the vaping devices that contain THC or marijuana are not addressed by this policy.
Johnson said the SRO told her that there are definite ways they can differentiate between a tobacco vaping device and those that contain THC.
Carpenter asked about vape detectors, and Streeter said that those she consulted with explained there are ways for the students to get around the detectors, so it would not help after two or three weeks, once the students learned how to beat the system.
Watson said even if detectors were installed, the videos would have to be pulled to see who was in the area at the time.
Higginbotham told the board that a month ago, one student was using a marijuana-THC vaping pen in class, whenever the teacher turned her back.
Maize added there were students using vapes in the car line as well.
Hamburg Athletic Director Tim Outlaw pointed out even if teachers or administrators suspect a student has a vaporizing device in their possession, it has to be located in order to enforce the policy.
The board members voted unanimously to approve the changes made to the district’s tobacco and vaping policies as presented.
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