Although it has been a policy for years, the Davis School Board wants to make sure teachers get the message - don't smoke in our schools.
The Davis School Board gave preliminary approval to broaden its proposed drug-free workplace policy to include tobacco. Under the policy, if someone is caught or convicted of using drugs, alcohol or tobacco in schools they could be placed on probation or terminated.The board is scheduled to take a final vote on the policy June 20.
"Nicotine is a very serious drug with harmful and dilatory effects on students and employees," said Board President Lynn Summerhays about the dangers of both smoking and passive smoking on the job.
Summerhays, who is also board chairman of the American Cancer Society's Utah Division, said that current medical research suggests nicotine is just as dangerous as drugs and alcohol already in the proposed policy. The policy prohibits the manufacture, dispensing, use or possession of a controlled substance.
While Davis schools have had bans on alcohol and tobacco for as long as anyone can remember, the new policy will standardize discipline and procedures for dealing with employees, said Elva Barnes, the district's policy director.
"It really cleans it up and brings it into one place," Barnes said.
Barnes cautioned the board about broadening the policy too far beyond federal language. However, she said the policy could be rewritten to include smoke-free workplace language enacted by the Legislature in 1986. The policy is being implemented in compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Without it the district could lose federal funding.
She said that the policy already is broader than federal requirements because it affects all employees and not just those who receive federal grants. However, she explained that sometimes certain departments may be receiving federal grants and don't realize it.
The policy is also broader than the federal law because it includes prohibitions against alcohol.
Stephen H. Sirkin, executive director of the Davis Education Association, asked that the policy be clarified to include only convictions and abuses reported at schools.
"It should be only workplace-related convictions. It could be self-incriminating," Sirkin said.
He also said the policy is flawed because of a system that allows administrators to discipline teachers if there is "reasonable cause" to suspect there is abuse. He said that the system could be used by administrators or members of the community to get retribution against teachers. He said that use of some prescription drugs could result in ill-advised discipline.
Barnes said specific instructions to avoid rumors and retribution could be included in guidelines that the district will formulate after the policy goes into effect.
Board members instructed Barnes to rewrite the policy, making clarifications and including language from the state smoke-free workplace statute.