St. Joseph school policymakers took time Wednesday to review changes on student behavior and enforcement on various issues, starting with the matter of vaping.

The SJSD is determined to stamp out the use of these devices. Dr. Robert Sigrist endorsed changes which, if approved by the full Board of Education, would ban “using, possessing, smoking, vaping, consuming, displaying, promoting or selling any tobacco products or imitation tobacco or cigarette products, vaping products or tobacco-related devices” on all district property and district-sponsored services and activities. The rule is meant to be a catch-all, in light of how vapes can be used to consume stimulants or narcotics, as well as nicotine

products. An example is marijuana-derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Some districts treat every vape as ‘drugs,’ because they didn’t want administrators to try to figure out, ‘Is it THC? Is it not THC?’ You know, you’re in that guessing game,” said Sigrist, director of non-academic services.

Violations can prompt action as minimal as counseling and referral to a cessation program, and as severe as exclusion from district property, depending on the circumstances of the case. The discussion serves as an introduction into the policymaking process for new board members Kenneth Reeder, David Foster and LaTonya Williams, who took office April 19.

The new board members heard Wednesday how the Missouri School Boards Association recommends changes, the board’s Policy Committee reviews them, and then the full board votes on which ones to adopt. In general, the district recommends adherence to the state policy framework, because it has already been vetted by legal counsel and the SJSD doesn’t have to spend extra time or money on that.

“You don’t necessarily have to take them, but that’s why we have our directors (Sigrist) take a look to see how they line up with our current policies and practices,” said Dr. Doug Van Zyl, superintendent of schools.

In addition to the policy on vapes, the panel reviewed proposals on:

Clarifying how people can bring service animals on to district property. Sigrist explained how the district is tightly constrained on this matter by federal health privacy law; in general, school leaders can only inquire as to the status of an animal’s training before permitting its presence. This has not been a common issue.

A policy proposal which would regulate how students transfer between extracurriculars if they change high schools in the SJSD’s open enrollment system. In alignment with state standards, up to 365 days of disqualification from the varsity level is possible; to avoid this, students are advised to consult with coaches and school leaders before transferring. In general, the district prefers they choose a school in freshman year and stay there.

The board next meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 24, at the Downtown district office, to vote on these proposed changes, among other matters.

Marcus Clem can be reached at marcus.clem@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem

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