The Gordon County Board of Education implemented a new three-strike policy meant to curb vaping and e-cigarette usage in schools at its meeting on Monday. The policy went through without a first or second reading because, according to Superintendent Kimberly Fraker, it was not a change to the Student Code of Conduct but an addition to existing regulations.
Under the new policy, students found vaping on a first offense will have the option to choose between the following punishments: five days of out-of-school suspension or five days of in-school-suspension accompanied by counseling and educational modules on the dangers of vaping.
Fraker told the board she hoped most students would choose the in-school suspension option on a first offense. Education, she said, might help students realize some of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use and prevent them from using again.
A second offense will result in 10 days of out-of-school suspension, and a third offense will result in a recommendation for “long-term suspension.” Students attending Gordon County Schools from out of district who reach the third offense will lose the “opportunity for school choice,” Fraker said.
Vaping devices will be confiscated and not returned any time they are found on campus.
The new policy will take effect on Oct. 14. Students who have already been found vaping this year will get a “clean slate” on that day, but will be subject to the same rules as other students.
“We are waiting until Oct. 14 because we want to send out a letter to our parents and students educating them about the policy and the consequences before it takes effect,” Fraker said.
The policy update follows a recent incident in which a Gordon County high school student was taken by ambulance to a hospital after using a vape device.
Director of Student Services Mike Evelti told the board in August that while traditional nicotine use is on the decline among school-age children and teens, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices are on the rise. He also stated that the problem did not just exist in middle and high schools. Fifth-graders across the country have also been found using the products.
These dangers were reiterated on Monday evening, resulting in an even firmer stance from the board.
Board member Eddie Hall asked Fraker to make sure school principals tell staff that the board is “serious” about the new policy and that teachers found not following the new rules could face consequences themselves.
“I had some kids tell me ‘We vape in so-and-so’s class because they don’t care,’ and, you know, at some point we have to take action against teachers who allow it,” Hall said. “I’m prepared to do that because we take this stuff seriously. I want them to know that.”