Casey County Schools Soon to be Tobacco-Free

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CASEY COUNTY NEWS | ABIGAIL WHITEHOUSE | NOVEMBER 18, 2014

Survey results are in and according to the findings, 70 percent of Casey County school parents support implementing a tobacco-free school policy across the district.

After hearing Jelaine Harlow, health educator for Lake Cumberland District Health Department, the Casey County Board of Education put the tobacco-free policy to a vote and the motion carried at the Nov. 10 meeting.

Evidence given
Harlow presented the board with several letters from community partners supporting the tobacco-free school policy.

Also shared were the results from several surveys that were given to parents and students across the school district including a ninth-grade student survey, a teacher-opinion survey, and a parent survey.

Harlow also conducted an experiment at a Casey County basketball game to gauge the opinion of those in attendance.

“We put a sign up and when people came into the game we gave them a dot and asked them to place the dot on whichever side they supported,” Harlow said.

The sign read; “Do you think Casey County Schools should be tobacco-free?” and there were two sides, “yes” on the left and “no” on the right, under which people could place their dots of support. The sign was presented at the meeting with the “yes” side winning by an overwhelming number of 95 dots to the “no” side’s 25 dots.

“To summarize the information in your packets,” Harlow said, “parents, staff, and students support tobacco-free schools and tobacco-free schools will create a healthier environment for this community and for our students.”

Teacher and Mayor give support
Following Harlow’s presentation, Beverly Hoskins, who taught at CCHS for 30 years, spoke to the board about her experience with tobacco use at school.

“I remember us having designated smoking areas here at the high school,” Hoskins said. “I was standing there and I thought we are educators, we know this is harmful and we are not only allowing these students to smoke, but we’re providing them a place to do it.”

After an effort put forth by Hoskins, the site-based council, and staff, the smoking areas were eliminated.

“I’m a firm believer that as an educator we have a responsibility not only to the young people in our community but to the adults,” Hoskins said. “I think we have an obligation to take a look at this. It’s about health and making good decisions.”

Hoskins shared with the audience that she has lost the two men she loved the most to smoking, first her father and then her husband.

“My father’s tobacco crop put me through college,” she said. “But we know it’s harmful. I would like to be able to go to a football game and not have to breath someone else’s smoke.”

Hoskins asked the board to take a closer look at the tobacco-free policy.
Sowders recalled a previous discussion with Harlow about phasing in a tobacco-free policy, which Harlow confirmed has taken place in Adair County as well as Russell County, who will start phasing in at the beginning of the next school year.

“That’s probably the best way in my opinion. Decide to do it and be ready to start with the next school year,” Harlow said. “We can offer smoking cessation to the staff and students, as well.”

Mayor Steve Sweeney addressed the board and members of the audience, offering his support to the tobacco-free policy.

“On behalf of the city, officially, and behalf of the Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, I hope you seriously consider passing this,” Sweeney said.

Decision
Chairman Ken Coffman said the board would set aside a time in the future to meet to hear the ideas and discuss the policy, but board member Marilyn Coffey objected.

“Ken, I believe some of us are ready to vote,” Coffey said. “I think we’ve had a year to think about this and I’d like to make a motion to pass it and phase it in.”

Sowders reiterated that the motion Coffey proposed was to adopt the tobacco-free policy for all Casey school campuses and begin phasing it in with the 2015-16 school year.

Board member Michael Turner seconded the motion.

“I think the letters were very compelling,” Turner said. “I think they’ve done a fabulous job over the year with the research and I think we have to lead by example. We don’t want to ask the children to do one thing and turn around and do another. I think this is something we’ve needed for a while.”

With Vice Chairman John Cox the only member in opposition, the motion carried.

Read the article online.