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Education

Hillsborough board mulls tobacco-free schools policy


Published:   |   Updated: November 5, 2013 at 06:42 PM

TAMPA — As early as next school year, Hillsborough County public school employees may no longer be able to take smoke breaks on district property.

During a policy workshop Tuesday, the school board mulled over the idea of making all county schools tobacco free.

The board members came to a consensus in favor of eventually creating a tobacco-free campus policy.

Currently, the school district limits where employees can smoke on campus, and some schools have designated smoking areas for employees.

Some board members said they would not be in favor of a policy that goes into effect right away.

It would be easier for employees who smoke to make the transition to a smoke-free campus if they had some time to go through a cessation program, member Candy Olson said. She suggested the policy could go into effect at the beginning of next school year or in January 2015.

“We’ve put an awful lot of pressure on teachers recently,” she said. “I would ask we consider doing this over time.”

Chairwoman April Griffin agreed.

“I want to see us tobacco free, ultimately,” she said.

The board would have to hold a public hearing and vote before the district could adopt a tobacco-free campus policy.

Details to be worked out include the consequences for smoking on campus and the kinds of cessation programs and support the district would provide to employees who smoke.

The Pasco County school district is also working toward tobacco-free schools.

In other board news:

- School district staff members are meeting individually with board members to talk about the possibility of placing armed security officers in each elementary school over the next few years. An elementary school security plan will go before the school board next month.

During an earlier meeting Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to make a decision Dec. 10 on a security plan proposed by district staff.

Member Cindy Stuart asked for the board to schedule a security conversation.

“I’m still looking for this board to have an opportunity to have a conversation as a group where we can talk about what we’ve learned, what we hear from the community and where we would like to see this go,” Stuart said.

Griffin has been critical of putting officers in all elementary schools, saying the money could be better spent if put toward student services positions such as guidance counselors and school nurses.

She said she is “starting to move a little bit on this issue” but that she would still like the district to find ways to put more funding toward boosting students’ mental health.

Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies and Tampa police officers currently are stationed at each middle and high school.

Nineteen of the district’s 144 elementary schools have security officers, who are employed by the district rather than a law enforcement agency. It would cost about $4.5 million to put officers in each elementary school.

- The board voted Tuesday to form a task force to look at the school district’s health education programs. The group will include students, parents, teachers and health professionals. Each board member will appoint one person.

- Erik Holley, currently principal of Anderson Middle School, was appointed Tuesday as principal of Westchase Elementary School. The position was vacated by Scott Weaver, who was appointed as principal of Martinez Middle School.

ekourkounis@tampatrib.com

(813)259-7999

Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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