Randolph BOE to revise tobacco policy

ELKINS — Randolph County Schools officials are preparing to make adjustments to the school system’s current “Use of Tobacco by Students” policy.

RCS Superintendent Gabe Devono said there is a “very serious” issue regarding the use of tobacco-derived products, alternative nicotine products and/or vapor products by students on school grounds.

“During a principals’ meeting, we brought up that this is becoming a real problem, and we decided we need to change our policy on tobacco,” he said during this week’s board of education meeting. “This is very serious. … What these kids are doing is illegal.”

Rachel Anger, vice president of the board of education, noted the use of tobacco-related productive is “disruptive” and is happening during class as well as in the bathrooms.

Devono explained consequences for violating county policy on first offense may include five days of suspension and a counseling requirement.

“We’re going to ask you to change our policy where if (students) get caught with any kind of E-cigarette whatsoever, that they will be suspended for five days and be required to go to class with a parent to learn the dos and the don’ts,” he said.

During the board’s lengthy discussion, Lisa Wamsley, board of education member, said the county must be prepared to uphold the policy, while Anger said the county should not “drag their feet” with updating the policy.

“I think some of the kids are skating around our current policy, so we can’t drag our feet too long with revising our current policy,” Anger said.

Melodee Price, board member, added she believes the policy also should be followed by teachers and staff.

“If we don’t have a handle on smoking and chewing (among teachers and staff) how will we enforce it with students?” Price noted.

“I think that we do need to be strict with staff; maybe we haven’t always been, but now is as good a time as any to start,” Anger added.

In addition, members of the board also proposed other suggestions, including making classes available at more than one location in the county to provide ample availability to families –including time and location options.

“If there is only one option in town and it has a high price, I hope that we would be able to– once the policy was enacted — provide options for the parents, at least two to three, so they aren’t just locked in to a certain one,” Price said.

“I agree with Melodee, if you do have the requirement to have the (counseling) meetings or an educational requirement in place, that there be three or four different opportunities at minimum so that they have a choice with whom they can schedule these things with,” Amanda Smith, board of education president, said. “It’s going to be important to have things like this laid out.”

Devono added that consequences for second or third offense violations could include social probation or expulsion.

After discussion with school officials, the board unanimously voted to put the policy out on a 30-day comment period, during which the public can raise concerns about the revised policy.

“So, by us approving this recommendation — this goes on a 30-day comment period, so what will happen after that comment period ends is (county officials) will come to us with a draft of a new policy that will be inclusive of some of the things that we have talked about,” Smith said. “At that point, we will have a more firm understanding of what resources are available for parents and students.”

“If there any comments, then, if there are comments, we’ll bring them back to you and we will choose whether to make adjustments or not make adjustments,” he said. “If there are not comments, then you can vote on whether or not you want to approve the policy.”

The next regular Randolph County BOE meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at the county office.