Booneville Schools strengthens vaping policy

Glenn Parrish
Booneville Democrat

Among the policy revisions adopted when the Booneville School Board approved student handbooks last week was one significantly altering the punishment for vaping.

“Initially all kids got for a vaping offense was the same as what our tobacco offense was, which was half a day of Saturday school,” said junior high principal Josh Walker.

Walker said when the policy was crafted school officials accepted the industry statements that vaping was a safe alternative to cigarettes.

However, is no longer accepted.

“Then we come to find out they can put these additives, THC or whatever, which is a much more serious offense if you bring marijuana to school,” said Walker. “And come to find out (vaping) is a whole lot more dangerous that what we thought.

“Safety of our kids is our number one concern. We feel like a lot of them are not educated on how dangerous vaping is.”

So, in addition to making a first possession or use of a vape or vape paraphernalia a full day of Saturday school, there are three days of in-school suspension (ISS), and a requirement that a restorative practices program be completed.

“We purchased a restorative practices program,” said Walker. “Our intentions are, along with the steeper penalty, we’re going to educate them on why they shouldn’t be vaping.”

Walker said he understands other districts have opted for out-of-school suspension, “but we don’t want to send kids home because we want them here.”

Walker’s building is also going to be home to a pilot program with vape detectors in restrooms.

The detectors will send a text to Walker and the school’s dean of students revealing which restroom the detection is made.

“It actually is trained to detect THC also,” said Walker. “Another thing it does is there is an acceptable level of noise and if it exceeds that it sends us a warning that it’s loud in the bathroom that there is excessive noise, or there’s a fight, or aggressive behavior in the bathroom.”

Walker said previous vaping offenses were not necessarily referred to a school resource officer for other than educational purposes.

“Now we will be referring them with the intention of them receiving a citation,” said Walker.

A second offense is a full week of ISS, completion of a restorative practices program and the referral to the SRO.

A third offense will result in a week of ISS, completion of a restorative practices program, referral to the SRO and a juvenile intake officer, a parent meeting, and community service.

The restorative practices program is not specific only to vaping, Walker adds.

A student can be assigned the program for excessive tardies, disorderly conduct, fighting, cheating on a test, plagiarism, and other offenses, he said.

Other policy changes approved through the handbook adoption includes there will be no incentive days this year for testing results because there was no standardized testing due to the shutdown of schools in response to COVID-19.

The exemption policy for semester tests was also revised to anyone having at least a C and no absences is exempt.

Absences can be recovered digitally if a student does the missed work and has a note explaining absence.

The homecoming royalty policy was revised to state anyone participating in the football homecoming court is ineligible for the basketball court.