For every rule there is a loop hole and this includes the Turlock Unified School District's anti-tobacco policy which is being updated to include electronic nicotine devices.
After districts across the state received a letter from state superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson urging them to adopt a policy that prohibits electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, TUSD heeded the suggestion. Despite the fact that the devices do not utilize tobacco, ENDS place youth at a greater risk of developing nicotine addiction through these vapor emitting devices, also known as e-cigarettes or e-hookahs. According to Torlakson, there have been reports that individuals utilize the devices to vaporize not only nicotine but other drugs including cocaine, heroin and marijuana and schools are reporting a surge in the number of students found using ENDS.
"We want to update our policy since this really is in the same realm as tobacco," said superintendent Sonny DaMarto at the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday when the policy was introduced to the Board as an information item. “It’s a rather new phenomenon that could be an issue in our district because it is vapor which makes it hard to smell and detect."
The nicotine devices are a growing trend in the education system as the use of e-cigarettes has more than doubled from 4.7 percent to 10 percent between the years of 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also found that 76.3 percent of students who used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days had also smoked cigarettes. In Turlock, there has been six findings of ENDS devices at Turlock Junior High School, 15 at Dutcher Middle School, 12 at Pitman High School, seven at Turlock High School and one at Roselawn High School.
"Despite being lower than the state average and other areas like Southern California, there is still an increased usage in our community," said Gil Ogden, director of Student Services. "The highest numbers is at our middle school level because the younger kids are not as sophisticated at hiding the devices. This is why we need to educate teachers and parents about what these items look like so they can identify and confiscate them."
The adopted policy will also prohibit the use of ENDS with or without nicotine on district-owned or leased property and in district vehicles, making the policy applicable to all students, staff and visitors. Students found in possession of ENDS devices will be suspended since the California education Code considers the device drug paraphernalia.
On April 15 TUSD board members will vote to update the policy. On Sept. 2, Ogden will present upon the affects of ENDS devices and their impact on the District. Representatives from the Stanislaus County Office of Education as well as student members from the PHAST Club, which stands for Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco, from local high schools will be present.