In a spirit of cooperation with efforts being made by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA), and the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department, the Grant County Board of Education voted at its May 10, 2012, meeting to adopt a policy making all Grant County Board of Education property tobacco free.
Tobacco-free school campuses throughout Kentucky has been a high-priority initiative of several agencies with which the Grant County Board of Education partners, and as such, was brought before the Board for consideration.
Relative to the Board’s decision to adopt the policy, Chairperson Richard Bredenberg stated, “This is a decision that will make some people very happy, and others not so pleased, but ultimately the determining factor is very simply our duty to the health and well-being of our students, staff, and the public visiting our campuses.”
Mrs. Chastity Rohan, a teacher at Grant County High School, who works with the REACH (Resources for Excellence to Achieve Coordinated School Health) Grant Committee to improve school policies relating to tobacco and nutrition is pleased to see the Board take this action. “As businesses, restaurants, hospitals, and college campuses have moved forward with smoke-free policies, it is essential that we as educators follow this trend in our district. A tobacco-free policy provides a safer, healthier environment for our students, plus reinforces what we teach in the classroom about tobacco use.”
Various student groups have worked in this direction as well. Grant County High School junior, MacKenzie Arrasmith, who works on the Social Norms Committee with an end goal of seeing the Grant County School buildings and grounds tobacco free, offered her support. “I support this 100%,” states MacKenzie. “Tobacco use affects not only the smoker, but everyone who comes in contact with the smoke. This change will make the entrances to our buildings, our parking lots, and every area on our campuses more welcoming. Best yet, the policy sets Grant County Schools – together with its staff, students, and the community – as a positive example for other districts to follow.”
The policy, which will take effect July 1, 2012, is all inclusive, including all individuals; all Board-owned properties; all Board-owned, leased, or rented vehicles; all school activities (on or off campus); all hours of the day; and all days of the week. This 100% Tobacco-Free School (TFS) policy has been heavily advocated by Dr. Terry Holliday, Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Education. In a letter from the Commissioner dated June 16, 2011, he encouraged Superintendents with the following statement, “…a Tobacco Free School policy…. provides genuine opportunities for adults and peers to serve as role models for not using tobacco. A 2003 study found that students were more likely to smoke in locations where they saw other students and adults smoking. In addition, youth look to adults they respect, such as teachers and school staff, as role models.”
A final contributing factor in the Board’s decision was the commitment by the Grant County Local Board of Health to continue their $78,000 contribution for school nurses based upon the implementation of a 24/7, 100% Tobacco-Free School policy. “We are pleased that a partnership with the Local Board of Health has provided assistance for the placement of nurses in each of our schools during the past several years,” states Bredenberg. “Our Board further recognizes the well-documented, detrimental effect of tobacco use and second-hand smoke. As educators and leaders in the community, it is appropriate that we move now to ensure the best possible environment and the best possible services for our students.”
The new policies adopted by the Grant County Board of Education also call for the provision of tobacco education and cessation opportunities for students, staff, and the community at large. Information regarding services and products that may assist individuals in their choice to either quit tobacco use, or simply modify its use are available from Rhonda Schlueter, District Health Coordinator, and will be advertised on the district’s web site at: http://www.grant.kyschools.us/TobaccoFreeCampuses.aspx.