Smoking fully banned in county schools

Education board outlaws use of all tobacco items around the clock

March 24, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County school board last night outlawed smoking on school property around the clock - not just during school hours.

While there won't be extra patrols of schools during non-operating hours to enforce the new policy, school district officials said it is important to send the message that smoking is unacceptable at all times.

"We have to be good role models," said Jean Satterfield, executive director of student support services.

Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties have similar round-the-clock policies. Montgomery County school system spokesman Brian Porter said its policy has helped reduce litter on school grounds.

Another change in Baltimore County's policy is the prohibition of all tobacco products, not just cigarettes.

Satterfield said the system will update its contracts with the parks and recreation department and others who use school grounds during non-school hours to reflect the new policy. Employees caught repeatedly violating the policy would be subject to disciplinary action, she said, and anyone else would be ordered to stay off school system property.

She said the change was prompted by a routine review of school board policies.

Throughout Maryland, smoking is outlawed during the school day, but beyond that, policies vary.

In Carroll County, school system policy prohibits the use or sale of tobacco in public school buildings at all times and on school property during "the official school day," which stretches from a half-hour before classes to a half-hour after student dismissal. In addition, by agreement of the county's high school principals, adults and visitors are not allowed to smoke on school property during school-sponsored activities, such as sporting events and dances.

In addition to schools, Baltimore County's new policy affects all owned and leased school system office buildings, warehouses, garages and school vehicles - regardless of whether students are present.

Also last night, the school board was updated on plans for several reforms at middle schools, which will take effect in September. Test scores indicate that achievement among Baltimore County students is lowest during the middle school years.

The reforms are the result of recommendations from a Middle School Task Force, a group of parents and school officials that has been studying the issue. Gwendolyn Grant, the task force's chairwoman and executive director of secondary programs, said the group focused on reforms that are inexpensive and can be implemented quickly.

The reforms include standardizing curriculums in English, math, science and social studies, and implementing a seven-period day at all 26 county middle schools. In addition, every middle school student will be matched with a trained adult mentor - generally, a teacher, aide or volunteer - who will monitor achievement and plan for high school, and schools will begin using a college education program.

Some board members expressed concern about the mentor program, saying they worry about the system's ability to recruit volunteers and the extra work it would mean for teachers.

Sun staff writers Laura Loh and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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