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Decatur City Schools enforcing tougher penalties for vaping violations

Decatur Daily - 1/12/2020

Jan. 12--Decatur City Schools is enforcing one of the toughest policies against vaping among public schools in the state and has sent notices to parents asking them to talk to their kids about the dangers of using electronic cigarettes.

Students who were previously sent to in-school suspension for possessing a vaping device will now be removed from school and sent to the Center for Alternatives to Suspension, according to Dwight Satterfield, deputy superintendent of school safety and student services.

The school system announced the tougher penalties in a letter to parents that went out before students returned from the holidays on Tuesday.

In-school suspension was apparently not a tough enough penalty to "deter many of our students who elected to engage in this harmful practice," school officials wrote in the letter to parents.

Vaping is the popular term for using electronic cigarettes to "vaporize" nicotine or an array of liquid concentrates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20% of high school students reported vaping in 2018, almost twice the 2017 rate. This translates to 3 million high school students using e-cigarettes in 2018, more than double the number who reported using traditional cigarettes, the CDC said.

In a report to the school board last month, Satterfield said he couldn't remember a month since October that the school district hasn't dealt with some kind of issue surrounding vaping, including one incident where a student purchased a vaping device for $100.

Lawrence County is trying to handle some of the same problems surrounding vaping, said Superintendent Jon Bret Smith.

"This is a major issue," he said, adding that the school district plans to amend its code of conduct by next school year to make vaping a major offense. "Public schools nationwide are dealing with this."

Smith said Lawrence County is looking at school systems with tough policies and he will look at what Decatur is doing.

More than a year ago, Hartselle City sent out a letter similar to the one Decatur addressed to parents.

Hartselle Superintendent Dee Dee Jones treats vaping offenses as positive drug tests and students are required to go to counseling the school district provides weekly.

In Morgan County, Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. said vaping offense are handled at the school level and that his district has had offenders.

"The principal deals with students who violate school policy," he said.

-- or 256-340-2469. Twitter @DD_Deangelo.


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