Aledo ISD implementing vaping policy

From left, Aledo ISD Chief Financial Officer Earl Husfeld and AISD Board Secretary Forrest Collins listen to the new vaping policy that plans to be implemented in the district’s student code of conduct this school year.

At the Aledo ISD board of trustees meeting Monday night, a discussion was had about the implementation of a vaping policy as well as the expansion of the district’s random drug testing program.

“Vaping is here and it’s truly a problem. I can tell you I was amazed one day when I went over to the high school to talk to Mr. [Dan] Peterson [principal] and he literally pulled out a cardboard box that was full of 30-40 different devices found,” AISD Deputy Superintendent Lynn McKinney said. “E-cigarettes are known by many names and the vapor that is inhaled by the e-cigarette user is not just water vapor. That is truly a myth that it is better than smoking. There are harmful substances that are in that vapor. One of the brands of e-cigarettes is called JUUL. The sales of JUULs have increased by 700 percent since 2016. The JUUL pod, which is a replaceable cartridge, has as much nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes. The thing is, it looks like a flash drive, so it makes it easy to conceal at home, at school and it’s something very small that is easy to hide on your person.”

McKinney said a lot of students just don’t know what e-cigarettes contain in them.

“We are working on the new student code of conduct that we will be bringing to the board for approval and we plan to put this information in that student code of conduct,” McKinney said. “We wanted to be sure we weren’t just looking at punishment. We wanted to be sure that we are trying to educate the students and the parents about why this is a dangerous activity for students to be involved in.”

The new student code of conduct vaping policy will include three offenses along with educational programs for the student and parent.

A first-time offense will include three days of in school suspension (ISS) and an online or face-to-face vaping awareness program that the student will complete within a designated time window. If the program is not complete within the timeframe, the student will receive an additional two days of ISS.

For a second offense the student will get five days of ISS and will have to complete at face-to-face vaping awareness program along with their parent(s). Non-completion will result in an additional three days of ISS.

A third offense will result in the student receiving 15 days in the disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) and a multi-day curriculum that will have to be completed prior to exiting DAEP. Successful completion within the designated time window could earn review of placement after 10 days.

“Right now, vaping and the use of cigarettes, tobacco, is all in a generic behavior section of the student code of conduct, so it doesn’t have any specific consequences tied to it. So when you look at it as a parent, it’s not real clear of what’s going to happen with respect to vaping, so the point of this is to make it clear,” AISD Superintendent Dr. Susan K. Bohn said. “The other thing we’d really like to do this year is gather data on it so we have an understanding of how many kids are repeat offending. We will send this out to parents at the beginning of the year and obviously it will be in the student code of conduct.”

McKinney said the district wanted to make sure they had a consistent approach campus-to-campus and the policy will apply to all AISD students.

“Anything that is taken up from a student that has any kind of THC, which we test all [devices], is an automatic DAEP placement,” McKinney said. “So you skip everything else and go directly to DAEP.”

There will also be educational events and trainings throughout next school year for students, parents and staff.

The district will hold a Parenting University session in September, Just in Time Trainings for staff in October, Red Ribbon Week for students in October, a video presentation on vaping in November, a program in February, additional Just in Time Trainings in March and another Parenting University event in April.

“I am very happy that y’all put this together. It’s not something that just affects Aledo, it’s across the country. I would be in favor of having stiffer penalties, but I understand that could take away from classroom instruction and I don’t want to do that,” AISD Board Secretary Forrest Collins said. “My main thing is to make sure this is zero tolerance because it is the fastest growing substance being abused by children across this country by far and we’ve got to do something about it. The educational piece is so huge, so I appreciate that you attached that to the consequences.”

AISD board member Jennifer Loftin said she hopes this policy will make it easier for students to stay away from vaping.

“It empowers our students to say no because they know the consequences,” Loftin said. “To have it clear in a very organized format is also super helpful for parents.”

Drug testing

The AISD board also heard a presentation on the new proposed drug testing program changes, which would increase testing from 800 students to about 1,250 students per year.

“The whole purpose of this is for it to be a deterrent, so we give the kids a way to stay strong. We have received lots of requests from staff and parents to expand this just past the athletic program and we feel pretty excited because we feel that we can expand for just an additional $3,000,” McKinney said. “We currently have $15,000 budgeted for testing, but we think the $3,000 expansion and taking that to $18,000 will allow for some thing we can do with this program that we’re excited about.”

The current drug testing program includes all students in grades nine through 12 that are in athletics. The urine test is random and conducted about six to eight times per school year with 100 to 150 students tested each time. A positive test results in the student missing 30 percent of participation in the sport as well as counseling for the student and speaking with the parents.

The proposed changes to the drug testing program will include all students in grades nine through 12 that are involved in any UIL program and some select extracurricular activities. The urine tests will also be conducted eight to 10 times a year and include about 100 students each test.

“That would take us from that approximately 800 students to roughly 1,250 students, so almost 72 percent of our student body would become involved by expanding it. Again, signed consent to participate and we would continue the urine test, but would like to move to eight to 10 testing sessions through the course of the school year,” McKinney said. “That sends a big message because I can promise you that within three minutes, everybody knows that it’s happening because they’re starting to pull kids out.”

The program will continue to take participation away from students that test positive and also provide counseling.

“We would like to add to this a nicotine test and do that as part of the random sampling with each testing round,” McKinney said. “So that’s going to help us focus in as well on some of the vaping issues that we are having.”

McKinney said parents will also be able to request a drug test for their child even if they’re not involved in UIL, if they wish to do so.

No action was taken on the vaping policy or the new drug testing program at the meeting.

For more information about the vaping policy and drug testing program, visit www.aledoisd.org.