Accomack School Board Adopts Stricter Policy on Alcohol, Tobacco, Adds Vapes

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By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County Public Schools has updated its policy on student possession and use of alcohol and tobacco products, which now includes e-cigarettes and vapes and imposes more severe consequences on students who violate the policy as of April 19.

The terms “e-cigarette” and “vape” are often used interchangeably, but there are a few differences between them. An e-cigarette resembles a traditional cigarette; a vape does not. 

Both e-cigarettes and vapes heat a liquid and produce a vapor that is inhaled, which may or may not contain nicotine. An e-cigarette may be disposable or have a cartridge that can be replaced, but a vape has a small tank that can be refilled with liquid.

The new policy prohibits students from possessing or using alcohol, tobacco products, e-cigarettes, vapes, or marijuana on school grounds, including parking lots, during the instructional day. 

Students are also prohibited from possessing or using these products at a school-related event, whether it is on or off school property.

Parts of the original policy applied to students in varying grade levels, but now the policy applies to all students in grades K to 12.

A first offense of possession or use of tobacco formerly resulted in confiscation of the prohibited materials, parent notification, and a warning, but now the consequence, which includes e-cigarettes and vapes, is three days of out-of-school suspension. 

A school administrator may recommend the student attend prevention counseling provided by the guidance department, which would eliminate one of the three days of suspension.

A second offense formerly resulted in three days of lost privileges, detention, or alternative suspension, but now the consequence is five days of out-of-school suspension.

For a third offense, the consequence remains unchanged, which is 10 days of out-of-school suspension. Distribution of nicotine, tobacco products, or vapes also results in 10 days of out-of-school suspension.

For an additional offense, the school principal and central office administrators may recommend a long-term suspension.

For alcohol possession, use, sale, or distribution, a first offense formerly resulted in confiscation of the prohibited materials, parent notification, and a warning, but now the consequence is a 10-day out-of-school suspension. A student who completes prevention counseling will eliminate five of the 10 days of suspension.

A second alcohol-related offense merits a 10-day out-of-school suspension and a recommendation for a long-term suspension.

For marijuana possession, use, sale, or distribution, a first offense formerly resulted in three days of in-school suspension, but now the consequence is 10 days of out-of-school suspension. Completing prevention counseling will remove five of the 10 days of suspension.

A second offense of marijuana possession, use, sale, or distribution will result in 10 days of out-of-school suspension and a recommendation for a long-term suspension.

School board member Edward Taylor agreed that “we need to be real strict on … these types of offenses” and appeared to indicate that every offense should be accompanied by a 10-day suspension “right out the gate.”

“I’m sure you all have experienced people, throughout your life, that got messed up with this kind of thing, and we need to be real serious about this, for our kids,” he said to the other school board members and administrators present.

“To me, vaping seems to be worse, from what I understand, than smoking,” he added.

Coordinator of Students Services Della Jordan explained that the new policy is stricter, not less strict, regarding tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana offenses.

Taylor said he misread the policy and agreed to its new terms.

The school board approved the new policy in a unanimous vote, and the policy took effect immediately.

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