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School district’s tobacco-free policy not being enforced

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Board chairman urges school employees to help with enforcement

By Stevie Lowery

All of Marion County’s public schools have a tobacco-free policy.
The policy has been in place since 2000.
But, it’s not being followed, and that makes Marion County Board of Education Chairman Michael Mullins angry.
“We’ve been taking credit for something we’re not. I don’t think we should be doing that,” Mullins said during the Feb. 26 school board meeting.
Mullins recently went to the Kentucky School Board Association conference in Louisville and attended a session about tobacco control policies. During that session, Mullins was recognized for being from one of the approximately 14 counties in the state that have a tobacco-free policy in place.
“I felt really good about that. I was very proud,” Mullins said. “And then I find out today that we are not tobacco-free. We just say we are. And that’s very disappointing. I was very mad. I was mad that I stood up and took credit for something that we’re not. That won’t happen anymore. I won’t take credit for something that we’re not doing.”
Mullins said if the district isn’t going to enforce its tobacco-free policy, it needs to change it.
“We’re going to do one or the other,” he said. “We’re not going to say we are and then not do it.”
“Amen to that, brother,” Board Member Mike Cecil chimed in.
Mullins encouraged principals, teachers, administrators, and staff at all of Marion County’s public schools to enforce the policy.
“If they are using tobacco products on this campus then it’s up to us to tell them that we are tobacco-free, and they are not to use tobacco on these school grounds at all,” Mullins said. “And I know that’s tough for us... We’re right here in the tobacco belt... People are still making their living off of tobacco. But, we have already made a policy saying we will be tobacco-free.”
The district’s tobacco-free policy is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means tobacco products are not to be allowed on any school campus, even during extra-curricular activities, such as basketball games, football games, etc. Mullins urged all school employees to begin enforcing the policy.
“Because if we don’t… We would have to go backwards, and I would hate to see us do that,” he said.
Marion County Superintendent Dr. Chuck Hamilton said the policy is very clear.
“The policy states no tobacco anytime, any place,” he said.