Friday, February 10, 2006

Tar-Heel Education: Banning Demon Tobacco In N.C.

You know that the world has undergone substantial change when even schools in North Carolina ban parents from using tobacco at outdoor school events:
Starting in August, tobacco use will be banned in the Davie County Schools - even at football games.

"I think the health consequences of tobacco use speak for themselves," said Steve Lane, the superintendent of Davie County Schools. "We're about kids and we're about trying to teach best behaviors and practices."

Davie County already bars teachers from using tobacco on school grounds or where students could see them.

But the new policy would prevent parents from smoking, dipping or chewing tobacco at such school functions as football games.

The Davie County Board of Education unanimously adopted the 100 percent tobacco-free policy Monday, making the county the 65th school district out of 115 in North Carolina to do so.

Yadkin County is considering a similar ban, but it is yet to be adopted by the county's board of education.

Calls requesting comment yesterday from Karin Mendenhall, the chairwoman of the Yadkin County Board of Education, and Superintendent Barbara Todd were not returned.

But they both said last month that they support a ban in general but also recognize how important tobacco has been to the county. They said that change must come slowly.

Bonnie Davis, a public-information officer for the Yadkin schools, said that the school board is reviewing additional information, including the results of a survey of all school employees and administrators.

Davis did not know when the board will take up the matter again.

There has been a statewide campaign to persuade school systems to adopt a 100 percent tobacco-free policy. The N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund is financing that campaign. That fund was established with money from North Carolina's share of the multibillion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies.

Kim Harmon, the Davie schools' health coordinator, said that school officials began considering a policy last spring. The policy was presented to the board of education in November.

Debbie Pullen, a member of the Davie County school board, did not attend the meeting Monday but said yesterday that she supports the policy.

"The board tries to do what's in the best interest of our staff and our students," she said.

Lane had experience with a similar policy when he was deputy superintendent for the Iredell-Statesville school system before coming to Davie County last month.

He heard grumbling from some, but most people eventually accepted the ban on tobacco use, he said.

He said that it was rare for law-enforcement officers to ask someone to leave a football game because that person refused to stop smoking.

Pullen said she was initially concerned that school officials would have trouble enforcing the policy. But she heard from principals who told her that it would help teachers and other staff members who want to stop smoking.

Harmon said she hasn't heard any complaints about the policy from parents. And people will have a chance to ask questions about the policy over the next few months, she said.

Harmon said that young people are easily influenced.

"Children are watching us," she said.
Who would have thought that they'd be banning tobacco use anywhere in the number-one tobacco-growing state, much less at outdoor sports events?

I think that the Superintendent's assertion that adults should be role models for kids is difficult to refute. As a practicing classroom teacher, I have to say that I agree with him. Kids are indeed always watching us. Even though I'm well aware that teachers have private lives, when we're on school grounds we are in the public eye.

What we do in private is one thing, what we do while on school grounds is altogether different.

And that goes for all adults who are on campus.

I'm just old enough to remember that rugged Marlborough Cowboy riding across our family's television screen. I never fell for the notion that cigarettes were "manly" or fashionable. Still...I wonder if cigarettes may have something to do with the strange attraction that I've always felt for the divine Audrey Hepburn. Maybe it was that 18-inch cigarette holder that she held so stylishly while portraying Holly Golightly in
Breakfast at Tiffany's... Or maybe it was her incomparable singing of Moon River that done it for me...

I guess some things aren't meant to be known...
See this week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.