Board To Propose Clearing The Air In Schools

March 01, 1992|By Brian Sullam | Brian Sullam,Staff writer

Smoking and chewing tobacco would be banned in all county school buildings and vehicles under a policy the school board plans to introduce in April.

The ban could take effect as early as this summer.

While board members had included the smoking ban in its original collective bargaining proposals with its three unions, they were unsuccessful in having a smoking prohibition included in the contracts with the system's teachers and secretaries.

"Two of the unions wouldnot agree to the language but they said they would waive their rightto oppose a no-smoking policy," said Keith Williams, a school board member and strong proponent of the tobacco ban.

"The impact will be the same."

The contract between the Harford County Education Association, the union that represents the teachers, and the school board has no provisions addressing the smoking issue.

Neither does thecontract between the board and the Harford Educational Systems Council, which represents nurses and secretaries.

Only the contract with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the union representing the system's blue collar workers, contains a provision banning the use of tobacco products inside school buildings.

The board plans to introduce the new anti-smoking policy at its April meeting and hold public hearings on it in May, said Albert Seymour, spokesman for the board.

Under the proposed policy, use of tobacco products within school buildings and school vehicles will be prohibited. The superintendent would allow tobacco smoking and chewing in designated areas outside schools and other school-controlled buildings.

Smoking by students is already banned by state policy. Presently, individual county public schools can ban smoking by employees if workers at the school agree on the policy.

Kellie Knight, a Fallston High School junior who initiated an effort last May to have the board ban smoking by school employees inside schools, said she was disappointed to hear that there was no provision in the new teacher contract, completed in January.

"I don't understand why it didn't make it," she said.

Christine Haggett, HCEA president, said the teacher's union "wouldn't negotiate on that language.

"We weren't willing to hang up the whole contract on it," said Haggett, the union representative for the teachers.

Union officials said there were more important measures, like pay and working conditions, to bargain over andschool board negotiators were unwilling to press the issue at the table.

But an observer of the bargaining said that while union negotiators did not oppose the idea of a no-smoking policy, the bargainingteam did not want to tell its members that it had conceded on the issue.

As a compromise, the union team told the board's negotiators that the union would not oppose a no-smoking policy if the board chose to impose one.

Kellie and about 15 other Fallston High students convinced the school board last spring that non-smokers working or attending schools where smoking is allowed are vulnerable to the effects of secondary smoke.

The students also provided the board with data on the health hazards of breathing secondary smoke.

The board not only agreed to negotiate a smoking ban for Harford school employees, but also convinced the Association of School Boards in Maryland tourge the state Board of Education to initiate a statewide ban.

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