The Hazelwood School District Board of Education’s most important priority is the health, safety and welfare of District students. The Board recently approved a policy requiring the District to become completely tobacco-free on July 1, 2012.
“One of our goals as a District is the health and safety of our students,” said Julia Thorpe, assistant superintendent for student services. “We know there has been an increased rate of tobacco usage by students and that there are links between tobacco use and diseases. We want to educate students and adults on the risks with using tobacco products. Looking at the overall health of our community, second-hand smoke is the single most preventable occurrence.” Thorpe added that second-hand smoke exposure causes serious disease and death, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks.
The Saint Louis County Department of Health (DOH) is proud to support this effort with its own smoke-free initiative, “Let’s Face It STL.” Let’s Face It represents a long-term commitment to make the community a better place to live, work and play. The DOH recently gave the Hazelwood School District the highest rating, gold standard, after assessing the District’s tobacco-free policy. The National Association of School Boards of Education, in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the gold standard guidelines.
The policy prohibits tobacco use in any form, by anyone at any time on any school property and at any school-sponsored event, and will eliminate the current designated on-campus areas where adults can smoke. In addition, the policy promotes smoking cessation, tobacco prevention education and increased health and achievement.
To support and model a healthy lifestyle for our students, the Board of Education established the following tobacco-free policy:
1. All District properties, campuses, vehicles and grounds are tobacco-free at all times. This includes all days when school is not in session, after school hours and at all functions taking place on school grounds, such as athletic functions and other activities not associated with or sponsored by the school.
2. Possession, use, sale or transfer of any tobacco products by students on District property, in District vehicles or at school-sponsored functions both on and off District property, is prohibited.
3. The use of any tobacco products by any school employee is prohibited on District property and in District vehicles. The use of any tobacco products by any employee is prohibited at school-sponsored functions on District property, and off-District property if the employee is acting in his or her official capacity as an employee of the District.
4. The use of any tobacco products by any visitor on District property is prohibited at all times.
5. Advertising of tobacco products is prohibited in school buildings, on school property, at school functions and in all school publications. This includes clothing and school supplies that advertise tobacco products.
“If staff and visitors want to smoke, they will have to go off-campus to do so,” said Thorpe. She added that signs will be posted at all HSD buildings on or before July 1, informing the public about the policy change.
The District will take appropriate action with any students, employee or visitor who violates the tobacco-free policy. Persons found in violation of this policy will be referred to the building principal and/or appropriate staff supervisor.
Students violating the tobacco-free policy will be subject to the consequences outlined in the grade-level Student Behavior Guides. Violations are defined as any of the following, but not limited to: possession of any type of tobacco products, chewing tobacco, smoke coming out of mouth or nose; and smoke coming from an area occupied by students.
First occurrence and repeated offenses will result in confiscation of tobacco products, notification of parents or guardians and notification of the police in accordance with St. Louis County ordinances. Students will be offered resources for available smoking cessation programs.
Visitors found smoking or using tobacco products will be informed of the school district policy and asked by the appropriate school official to refrain from smoking or using tobacco while on District property. If the visitor does not comply, he or she will be asked to leave.
Thorpe said the District wants to include all of its community members in the smoke-free effort – patrons, parents, students and staff members, so it sponsored a free, on-site smoking cessation program earlier this year. Crystal Nelson, the District’s lead nurse, said eight people completed the eight-week course. Participants received nicotine patches or nicotine gum to satisfy cravings.
“They had to set a ‘quit date’,” said Nelson. In this case, it meant that participants had to agree to quit by smoking by the program’s third week. “We started with the basics – ‘Why do you smoke?’ ‘What are your triggers to smoke?’
“Some staff members have mentioned that their goal is to quit smoking over the summer because they know that when they return in August, they will have no choice.”
Nelson hopes to do another on-site smoking cessation program during the 2012-2013 school year. She also linked this initiative to other District-wide healthy programs.
“Being that we recently received the platinum award from the American Heart Association for being a Fit-Friendly Workplace, smoking cessation fits right in,” said Nelson. “Some people need face-to-face accountability while others manage online or through weekly checks. Hopefully, people will see the policy as beneficial to their own health.”
“We want adults to set examples for our students,” said Thorpe. “Adults are the role models; therefore it is incumbent upon us to show students that we care about their health as well as our own.”